Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Chumbawamba

  • Anarchy [Ten Little Indians, 1994] **
  • Tubthumper [Republic/Universal, 1997] ***
  • Uneasy Listening [EMI, 1998] A-
  • Wysiwyg [EMI, 2000] A-
  • Readymades [MCA, 2002] *
  • Un [Koch, 2004] **

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Anarchy [Ten Little Indians, 1994]
transient punk-style agitprop with announcements ("Timebomb," "Mouthful of Shit") **

Tubthumper [Republic/Universal, 1997]
Tub as platform, tub as cornucopia, tub as slop bucket ("Tubthumping," "Amnesia"). ***

Uneasy Listening [EMI, 1998]
This "Collection of Stuff From 1986-1998" establishes that their sloganeering gift for the catchy long preceded "Tubthumping," and also that it's not in them to write apolitically--"This Girl," described as one of "a series of jangly love songs" they tried because they weren't supposed to, concerns a nonconformist who throws bricks from the top of a parking garage. Their music and their anarchism combine the programmatic and the quirky. Despite the trumpets, many arrangements reduce to rock readymades with a march pulse, yet despite the guitar chords and drumbeats the enunciated lyrics evoke music hall. Really, they're that funny. You say that when they barf to cap each infinitely repeated "Your ugly houses look so . . . " there's no way to know they were inspired by Sting's country mansion as opposed to row-house ticky-tacky? I say the notes are worth reading. A-

Wysiwyg [EMI, 2000]
Waddaya know, the money's been good for them--22 songs in 47 minutes, an unslackening stream of infectious invective and simplistic satire, too jolly to accuse of contempt. "I'm With Stupid" isn't about ordinary people even if "Dumbing Down" is, and for the most part the tunes are so cheerful and the mood so up that the songs feel like jokes the whole world has been waiting for a chance to laugh at. Really, wasn't it about time for one called "Hey Hey We're the Junkies"? Even if the junkies in question are addicted to media? A-

Readymades [MCA, 2002]
faux-slick truths about real world horror ("All in Vain," "Don't Pass Go") *

Un [Koch, 2004]
"Pissing in the wine, pissing in the wine" ("When Fine Society Sits Down to Dine," "On eBay"). **