Saturday, June 19, 2010

Chumbawamba: ABCDEFG (+ Live Ammunition bootleg)

"Sometimes a melody is louder than a shout."
Seems most everybody - left, right, underground, mainstream, young, old - hates Chumbawamba. Really, it's hard to find anybody to say a good word about the men and women of this thirty year old British anarchist musical collective. (If you suspect MRML of rhetorical exaggeration, read the blistering responses to this Metafilter post about the band)

But maybe everybody is wrong. Yes, Chumbawamba's anarcho-propaganda might wear on some but they write these folk songs that seem immediately ready for a thousand-voice, Goodnight-Irene-style sing-along so effortlessly that it's alarming. Since they've stripped down to a small group and gone fully acoustic (a direction I've been hoping they'd go in since 1989's English Rebel Songs - still possibly their finest work) they've gone from strength to strength.

ABCDEFG a concept album about music (if I've kept you this far, please don't stop reading yet) is full of tunes your Grandmother (if you're grandmother was Emma Goldman) could strike up on a picket line to rally some match girls but with words that belong to our fucked-up 21st century. I could go on and on but perhaps check out a few songs in the faint hope that I might soften the resolve of a Chumba-hater or two.

Just to show how well the band works with an audience, here's a May 2010 bootleg, I've called "Live Ammunition".

01 Voices, that's all
02 Song on the times
03 Talk
04 Add me
05 Wagner at the opera
06 Thatcher in memoriam talk
07 So long, so long
08 Singing out the days
09 You don't exist
10 Stitch at the time (Stitch that)
-- break
11 Fade Away
12 Tritonus talk
13 The Devil's Interval
14 Ratatatay talk
15 Ratatatay
16 The Day the Nazi Died
17 Torturing James Hetfield
18 Charly
19 Credits
20 El Fusilado
21 Homophobia
22 A Love Letter to Margret Thatcher from General Pinochet
23 Underground
24 On e-Bay
25 Bella Ciao

Live Ammunition link is in the comments

Speaking of comments are you a fan or a Chumba-hater?


  1. .


  2. I still like them - not everything they do is great, but they cover a lot of ground, and a lot is worth listening. And I don´t think you can be in the music business for that long without making some enemies ...

  3. A cracking new album which built on the slightly over-long The Boy Bands Have Won and the brilliant Singsong and a Scrap. I spend far too long trying to convince people they are no longer the shouting million-piece they once were.

  4. Definitely pro. WYSIWYG, Un and Anarchy are all LP's that are worth listening to - here is a band that has something to say and does it in a compelling, eclectic fashion. I'm sure they're not too broken up by making enemies because they've made people THINK. And thinking for themselves is something that people need to do more of these days.

    Thanks for the live show - looking forward to hearing it.

  5. I've been a fan since the "Tubthumper" days...not because of that particular album, but because a certain music blogger had so much praise for "English Rebel Songs", that I picked up that album and "First 2" as soon as I could find them. I love those three albums, and even enjoyed some of the dancey stuff of the early 2000's but their last three folky albums have been phenomenal. Stylistically, they've really found their niche.

    When they launched their career as anarcho-folkies, they played at the Calgary Folk Festival, and I was thrilled to finally get to see them. That year at the folk fest, they had this stage where they'd randomly assign three artists/bands to collaborate and come up with a 45 minute set. One of those combinations was Chumbawamba, a throat singer and the band Nathan (from Winnipeg). As one of the ladies from Nathan was introducing one of the songs, she stopped mid-sentence and said "You know, I never thought I'd see the day when I was going to perform a song standing between Chumbawamba and a throat singer!" and then continued her introduction.

  6. I bought WYSIWYG real cheap in a bargainbin and I liked it because of it´s diversity, strong songs and positive attitude. I still do and think it´s of their better releases.

  7. I have to say that I still like them. At times though it is a bit odd, as my MOM likes them as well. Before you start thinking I live with her or that she is really hip, she's not. She heard tubthumper and she just keeps buying their cd's, God bless her.

  8. Chumba boot! How badass is that!? Thanks as always. Eager to hear their new work too, love to get their perspective on the latest current events. Wonder what they'll write about the oil spill next time out? :-/

    Meanwhile, thanks for the reup on the '86 BB show, which un-rar'd fine, but could still use a re-rar'd repost of the Berlin show when you get a chance. My RAR Expander gets caught on track 6 and won't decompress any more tracks beyond that. Thanks again.

  9. I've downloaded this, but haven't had a chance to listen to it yet.
    I'm a fairweather fan. There was a period that I seen them three or four times in the space of a year and each show was a different beast from the last. Always evolving and always challenging and equally entertaining.
    Then I didn't see them for a few years and became less impressed with their dance influenced releases.
    The last time they played near me the Supersuckers were playing the same night and I jumped at that.
    Two friends did plan on going to see them, but when they got to the door of the Garage in Glasgow the doorman asked if they were sure as the band were going to be playing English folk songs and only 8 people had turned up so far.
    So as they didn't have tickets they decided to join me at the Supersuckers instead.
    I'm not even sure if they ahve been back to Scotland since.

  10. Anon
    "Some enemies" would be putting it lightly!

    Me too. The funny thing is I spent a lot of time trying to convince people how great they were back in the eighties so it was strange when they hit the charts!

    Yeah I have to go back and listen to those nineties albums now.

    I bet it was at the old Cellar that I made you listen to them. I'd forgotten about that and just assumed you'd always loved them - but thanks for proving my posint about my overly-aggressive selling of this band being a long-standing thing.
    The story made me laugh - thanks!


    I must go and re-listen to WYSIWYG - Tylerpistol (above) has always been a big advocate of that one.

    I laughed my mom likes them too (I made her listen to English Rebel Songs way way back but she found 'Tubthumper" through her grandchildren!

    I bet they've re-tooled parts of their live set around the spill - they always keep on top of things. I will fix the other BB (was in a foul mood blog-wise for a bit) and maybe upload the longer version of Mermaid Street demos.

    It's a...
    I bought "Slap" when it came out and then immediately sold it and stopped listening to their new stuff till Tubthumping came out (I did like, if not love, that record).
    A choice between The Supersuckers (who I do like) and Chumba in this folk phase would see me as the ninth man in the audience.

  11. definately pro. love the youtube videos you posted along side!

  12. love this band. thanks for the boot - i already have all of their officially released material. the new album is good, not quite as fresh as the last two though.

  13. jimshred
    Thanks, I'm heartened to see the number of pro-Chumba folks here!

    I think the new one is the best of the series just because it has almost none of the smugness that occasionally mars their work and just because I like every song.

  14. I'm not as familiar with MetaFilter as most, but from the few times I've been there, nearly 97% of the dialogue has been negative for each topic. Maybe I just happened to look at the wrong pages?

  15. being from burnley its hard not to love the band .think ssh /jesushchrist was there best period.the current line up lacking in members is a bit too folky for me and lack a lot of the hummor live.but the really good thing about them is you never really know what you are getting.


  16. Pitiful few have had the balls to thumb their noses at whom or which they please for over 30 years. Zappa comes to mind. Pretty good company I'd reckon.

  17. Thanks for this! I googled Chumbawamba live bootleg, hoping to find vintage stuff. If anyone has any early 90s or earlier live videos, please contact me through my link!

  18. Jim
    Glad you enjoyed the mandatory video I try to have for every post.

    TOTALLY depends on the thread topic, sometimes people are all rah-rah and other time's it's a pile-on. So I'd sau 50-50 on the neg./pos.

    It is amazing how they've survived a lot.

    I'll see what I can dig up (this post got people talking).

    P.S. The Humanifesto stuff sounds real good.

  19. Chumbawamba's biggest problem was they were ahead of the times. People have wised up (me included) and now I've gone back to relisten to their earlier stuff which is much better than I remembered. I can also see why mainstream hated it. DIY music is a trend again.

    The other problem has been their broad musical range; punk, pop and now folk. Not everyone likes such a broad range. I've always thought they were under valued.

    Thx for the boot. I'm always looking for those.

  20. imi
    They were ahead of the time (or in and around it anyway) I mean the diversity on "Pictures..." is pretty startling.

    More chumba boots will show up - this one got a great reaction!

    ...they still grow...after all these albums...and they get better and better (i.m.o.)!

    Thank you!

  22. Here I am again, once again from googling "chumbawamba bootleg". I'd forgotten my last post, glad to hear that you enjoyed the Humanifesto stuff!

    For those of you looking for some older Chumbawamba bootlegs, has a decent collection. Someone recently uploaded a good quality audience audio recording of a 1988 show in Switzerland.

    Here's a gem I received from an old chumba fan in greece: The 1983 Chumbawamba/Passion Killers demo tape Be Happy! Despite It All. I posted the link on this site with a good description:


  23. Anon
    You're welcome and I think this ne album might be my favourite (I mean aside from ERS, which is sorta lodged at number one for me.)

    Thanks for the cool link and I've been hoarding those Dime Chumba boots till I have time to make cover art.

  24. 100% positive...CHUMBAWAMBA are great and they still grow!

  25. Thanks for bringing these to my speakers once again.
    First saw them early eighties, think they were supporting Chaos UK or some similar band, at miners welfare club in Nottingham. Got a few songs on tape from friends and enjoyed them for a while, then forgot about them.
    Roll on to late 90's & a new apprentice at work lent me some new tunes, among these were a couple of of Chumba albums. Played them to death for a year or so, then new car & no cassette player. Grrr.
    Not listened to them again until now. Think I will be purchasing a few CD's this weekend. Glad I found this. Cheers


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