London N7 Rocket

Still got the magic, those [B]Chumbas[/B]...

Still got the magic, those Chumbas. There’s a vanful of police outside.

Tonight is a benefit for the May Day weekend conference (doublespeak for the J18-style riot that will raze central Babylon to the ground) and the air is thick with direct action. Like clapping along and funny anarchist dancing. All this is many thousand international sales of ‘Tubthumping’ away from the hairshirt-core of most rock refuseniks, and all the better for it. But – in an age of Rage and Asian Dub – is the Chumbas‘ funny-spectacled conscious cabaret really what the world needs?

There’s a lot to commend the Chumbas. The sheer might of a dozen-odd people (seven Chumbas, less new mum Alice Nutter, plus brass section and DJ) onstage. Some unexpected turntablism on ‘Good Ship Lifestyle’. Spine-tingling folk, recycled from a time when no-one had any rights, just oxen. And a Rover plantful of pop nous – there are glimpses of Saint Etienne in Lou‘s keyboard turns, while old standards like ‘Timebomb’ could be singalongs from the Costa del Lager.

The Chumba agenda has long been subversion through pop hooks and shouting. They are at their best, however, when they are not using Semtex to crack an organically grown, fairly traded nut. And at their naffest when pursuing this right-on version of radical non-chic.

The police, by the way, fucked off hours ago.