Posts from 3rd August 2000

Aug 00

THE CHAMELEONS – “Swamp Thing”

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THE CHAMELEONS – “Swamp Thing”

On paper, we should owe The Chameleons everything: every grand swoop, passioned howl and gritted-teeth gesture of modern rock might stem from these North-East die-hards. I should be cursing them now for their bad influence, as Mark Burgess’ meat-and-leather face stares up from yet another adult rock mag. And your reaction to a review of “Swamp Thing” ought to be “Oh Lord, not that again,”.

But the Chameleons hit minor cult status at best: maybe you’ve not heard ‘Swamp Thing’ and its latticed, funkless groove. I heard it once a long time ago and didn’t forget it – I lost the details, but the airless mesh of guitar and starved, hard drumming stayed with me until I picked up the song again. It’s impressive stuff – with “How Soon Is Now?” the peak British art-rock statement of the time, but where that song drowns in resignation the Chameleons flail and fight, determined to go down messily.

The Chameleons’ music was easy to get wrong. One step to the right lay histrionic blowhards like Simple Minds or Big Country, and for me the band took that step a few times too often. But when they let their rigid post-punk roots show, it had the curious effect of making the Chameleon’s music genuinely grand. Burgess’ voice is stiff, straining, and dry – but its roughness is the only way he could have got away with stuff like “A storm comes / Or is it just another shower?” (On the page, he still doesn’t). When “Swamp Thing” kicks in, the band sound like Joy Division tackling Bon Jovi, men trying to beat a hostile and reductive world simply by becoming too big for it.

Freaky Trigger

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Freaky Trigger sexier than Pitckfork shocker. Not that we’ve got any photographic evidence to back this up (Fred’s notorious pictures aside), but hey, we had two genders at our pub meet.

Diamanda Galas reviews a bunch of singles

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Diamanda Galas reviews a bunch of singles – a million times more entertaining than the notion of D.G. reviewing a bunch of singles suggests. I’d seen Galas doing the Invisible Jukebox thing in The Wire and while entertaining she was very harsh on a lot of the records played. Here she gets into the pop spirit in fine style: maybe we should ask her to come along for the next Focus Group….(link via Fred)


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Tangents talking about the Magnetic Fields gig I went to last week. Shame forces me to admit that it was most probably my friend Pete who Mr.Fitchett heard compare the Magnetic Fields to Neil Hannon, since we were sitting next to the Tangents guru. It honestly isn’t too odd a comparison to make on a first encounter, or even on a later encounter. I think the crucual difference is class – Hannon has been cast as the British scene’s token posho, and it’s increasingly a role he seems eager to play up to, more fool him.

Serfs and toffs…

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Serfs and toffs… – a Finn’s-eye view of English popular culture. Hard to decipher, but the promised book might well be fascinating.

Songs based on that game of football they had on Christmas Day between the trenches during World War One

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Pretty specific that one Tanya, I hear you cry. How many can there be, for such a footnote in military history. Well, as is the case whenever England play Germany at football, all other news is relegated to the sidelines. I can imagine the editors meeting for King & Country’s Boxing Day edition.

“Well, the war is still going on.”
“Temporary ceasefire at Ypres.”
“Thirty casualties in the trenches when some blokes mistook some dynamite for a Blue Peter Advent Crown.”
“Oh, and some Tommy’s had a kickabout with the Jerry’s for about twenty minutes.”
“Hold the presses.”

At least the news media did not concentrate on the literal armies of British hooligans who were ripping up Belgium. Ah, football, isn’t it. Barbed wire for goalposts, minefield for pitches. I reckon it was just a ruse to get all the lifetime Man United supporters (you know – the ones from Surrey) out in the open where a lazy sniper could pick the bastards off. But hold Tanya – as laudable as your cynicism is about this wartime camaraderie – what about the tunes? Well, let’s face the music and laugh.

The reason why the game is not really representative of mankind putting aside its differences are twofold. Firstly, everyone picked their weapons up afterwards and blew ten shades of shit out of each other. Secondly the game appears to have been played between Paul McCartney and The Farm. Its quite possible that Kraftwerk sent out some of their robots to play too – but they were too busy writing songs about exciting things like roads and calculators to pen a tune.

So on the one side we have the hopelessly naďve Pipes Of Peace whilst on the other we have the naďvely hopeless All Together Now. Pipes of Peace has done for world peace what a song called Trumpet Of Tattooism would do for the body painting industry. Both these records were released at Christmas, feverish stabs at that peace loving time of year. The rest of the year Paul had primed his Mandolin of Mass Destruction (don’t laugh – REM borrowed it for Losing My Religion and we all know the body count of that fracas). The video offered us wonderful scenes of Paul almost getting blown up before the kickabout, and then acting a bit of a tit in goal. All that really needs to be said about Pipes Of Peace though was said by Paul himself. It was released as a double A-side with So Bad.

Now to the Farm’s attempt at Christmas peace loving joy. All Together Now was not strictly a Christmas record. A previous version was loosed on an unsuspecting, and frankly not caring, audience about eighteen months before. But by the subtle addition of the Christmas instrument – a sleigh bell, and nicking wholesale the idea behind Pipes Of Peace they created a Xmas number eight smash. This was cannily done by adding the words “In no mans land” to “All together now” to suggest that it was their cheeky Scouse idea to have a kickabout where dead bodies lay. Some respect boys. Indeed stealing the premise of Pipes Of Peace is not all The Farm ripped off Paul. All Together Now as a title bears an uncanny resemblance to the frog song – aka – We ALL Stand TOGETHER. NOW – that’s a coincidence.

There is nothing wrong with exploiting the misery of others for the sake of art. I suppose if people have to write songs, the subject will not improve them. But come on, two Christmas songs about the same football game, which did not show how man can live side by side – more that when England meet Germany sparks will fly. Still I cannot help but think of The Farm going in on a big tackle with Macca – and maybe Elvis Costello – and accidentally stumbling on a cluster bomb. Then they really would be All Together Now, entrails, flesh and bone sloshed into one big Scouse casserole.
In No Man’s Land.