Chumbawamba
WYSIWYG


4.5
superb

Review

by Pedro B. USER (303 Reviews)
August 25th, 2012 | 18 replies


Release Date: 2000 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Chumbawamba prove that there is life beyond Tubthumping, and follow up their radio breakthrough with one of the best albums in their career.

Anyone who has listened to the radio for more than five minutes during the late 1990s will be familiar with Chumbawamba and their smash hit Tubthumping (also unofficially known as I Get Knocked Down). What most casual listeners blasting the infectious pop-rock anthem on their way to work will not know is that the British anarco-rockers are anything but one-hit wonders, having built a long and dignified career both before and after Tubthumping.

In fact, it can almost be argued that the ubiquitous song is an anomaly in Chumbawamba's career. Its runaway mainstream success (which single-handedly helped carry what was one of the weakest offerings in the band's catalogue) contradicted everything the project stood for, and will no doubt have presented the group with a sticky situation. On the one hand, the millions of bandwagon-jumpers would no doubt be claiming for a new Tubthumping to rock out to in their commute; on the other, the group had to be careful not to compromise their principles in the name of the almighty dollar, thus alienating the small but solid fanbase they had acquired over the previous decade. It was a lose-lose situation, and it was up to Chumbawamba to choose the lesser of two evils.

That is why it is so refreshing to note that WYSIWYG, the band's first release after they had become hot mainstream commodities, sees the band choosing musical integrity over commercial success. It would have been almost too easy to write fifteen Tubthumping soundalikes and rake in the bucks once again; in their 2000 opus, however, the group chose to go in the exact opposite direction, and, to their immense credit, came out with one of the best albums in their career.

In fact, one of the most surprising traits about WYSIWYG is how universally strong it is. Most albums have their hits, their standouts, their weaker tracks and their fillers; Chumbawamba's millenial offering, however, achieves the remarkable feat of maintaining the same level of quality across four-fifths of its hefty twenty-two tracks, making for an overall stellar listening experience.

And yet, there is not that much to separate this album from other Chumbawamba albums of the 1990s. The group's overall sound continues to hinge on a duality between sneering male and saccharine female vocals, laid over a backing track of melodious, yet biting indie-pop. The difference is that, this time, the band's songwriting is consistently at its best, delivering songs so memorable that, if heard often enough, they will literally stay with the listener for years, just waiting for the appopriate moment to pop into their mind once again.

The secret to writing such catchy and memorable songs may lie in the group's willingness to Keep It Short and Simple. One of the unwritten rules of songwriting dictates that the ideal length for a song is from three to four minutes, and over half of these twenty-two cuts are not even half that long; in fact, a handful are scarcely more than snippets, with maybe one or two lines of lyrics and nothing even resembling a chorus. The fact that these are just as appealing as the longer cuts is, again, a testament to Chumbawamba's songwriting.

The "actual" songs on here veer between furious, horn-infused guitar-pop and a more introspective, minimalist side. The former is especially evident early on, with the opening blast of I'm With Stupid, Hey Hey We're The Junkies or I'm In Trouble Again helping reel the listener in, whilst delivering the first few catchy choruses in an album littered with them. As the album progresses, the group's more melodious streak (already present in cuts such as Shake Baby Shake) becomes more evident, giving rise to moments of haunting beauty such as The Standing Still, the acapella cover to the Bee Gee's New York Mining Disaster 1941 or instantly catchy closer Dumbing Down. These moments rely heavily on the beautiful voice of the group's lead female singer, coupling it with little to no instrumentation to great effect. On the flipside, tracks such as ready-made hit She's Got All The Friends That Money Can Buy or the shamelessly accessible Celebration, Florida continue to showcase the band's skill at writing more conventional songs, while snippets such as Moses With A Gun or the irrepressible Knickers get a chuckle out of the listener, contributing to this album's overall success.

All in all, then, WYSIWYG is a resounding success, a more than worthy successor to Tubthumping, and one of the great indie-pop albums of the new millenium. While not all of the songs succeed, and while the group's blatantly anarchic lyrical stance sometimes goes a little over the top, only The Health and Happiness Show, WWW Dot, Jesus In Vegas, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Jerry Springer and Smart Bomb can objectively be considered weak(er) tracks - which, in an album with twenty-two songs, is no small feat. Another quality entry in an overall strong discography, WYSIWYG not only proves that Chumbawamba were not your average one-hit wonder, but also makes the listener question why more people are not familiar with the band's discography beyond that smash radio hit. Stellar.

Recommended Tracks

I'm With Stupid
I'm In Trouble Again
New York Mining Disaster 1941
Celebration, Florida
Knickers
Dumbing Down



Recent reviews by this author
Big Ball Hotter than HellChosen Resolution
Werefox I Am MemorySound City Players Sound City: Real To Reel
Nirvana NevermindEnforcer Death By Fire
user ratings (4)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
NoMeansYes
August 25th 2012


1012 Comments


I thought that was an excellent review. Pos'd.


ReturnToRock
August 25th 2012


3448 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks! Will fix the errors.

The latter part refers to the acronym KISS (not the band name), which stands for Keep It Short and Simple or Keep It Simple Stupid. It's a rule for writing, etc.

NoMeansYes
August 25th 2012


1012 Comments


no problem, i edited my previous comment as it's no longer valid. Never encountered that acronym before, I've learnt something new!

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
August 25th 2012


16023 Comments


Hmm..Chumbawumba...I always thought they were some sort of novelty band after that big hit. Never even knew they made any albums haha.

Digging: iamthemorning - Belighted

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
August 25th 2012


31174 Comments


It's called 'Tubthumping', not:

Thubthumping
or
Thumbthumping

(you use both)

Digging: LV and Joshua Idehen - Islands

ReturnToRock
August 25th 2012


3448 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Edited. I honestly always thought there was an extra 'h' in there (don't know where I got Thumbthumping from, though).

@menawati: yes, they have a dozen or so albums, starting in the late 80s, right up until this decade.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
August 25th 2012


31174 Comments


You've still got it that way in the recommended section (and seriously, are you unable to recommend anything besides more stuff from the same artist?)

You also italicize song and album names, you should only do that for the album names so there's a clear distinction between the two

ReturnToRock
August 25th 2012


3448 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

In Chumbawamba's case, yes. I can't think of anything else which sounds like them.

Graveyard
August 25th 2012


5735 Comments


"I can't think of anything else which sounds like them."

the ex?

Digging: Sugary Sweet Machines - Controlled Breathing

Xenophanes
Emeritus
August 25th 2012


10594 Comments


Hey it's the KISS guy!

Digging: Grouper - Ruins

bloc
August 25th 2012


34854 Comments


THERE IS NO LIFE BEYOND TUBTHUMPING!!!!!!!!!!!

Digging: Interpol - El Pintor

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
August 25th 2012


50415 Comments


why does this even exist

Digging: Viper the Rapper - You'll Cowards Don't Even Smoke Crack

ReturnToRock
August 25th 2012


3448 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Because, band is more than just one song?

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
August 25th 2012


19759 Comments


Is this for real? LOL. Always thought they were a one-hit wonder.
Anyways, good review. Don't listen to the haters. We are human and we are all make spelling errors from time to time.

Digging: Spectral Lore - III

wacknizzle
August 25th 2012


13272 Comments


Good review, but I'm sorry cause I've heard Tubthumper and I never want to hear this band again, especially since your taste aren't at all my thing.

Digging: Dioramic - Supra

ReturnToRock
August 25th 2012


3448 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@Atari: exactly the point of the review. More people need to know how good this band is outside of their one annoying hit. And I should stop saying I don't make grammar mistakes, I always have trouble with 'length' (and 'bicycle', and 'synonym'). As for haters, I'm used to them. They don't get to me anymore. Especially 'cause they're mostly anonymous...

@wacknizzle: fair enough To each their own. And if you don't like the band, you don't like the band.

GiaNXGX
August 25th 2012


4867 Comments


Cool review, band name made me lol.

SharkTooth
February 17th 2014


4413 Comments


very underrated band

Digging: Balkan Beat Box - Nu Med



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy