Leeds Town & Country Club
I get knocked down. And then I go, “Aaaargh! Bugger! That really hurt, you bastard!” Not the greatest of choruses, is it? No it isn’t. Which is precisely why Chumbawamba sang something completely different on ‘Tubthumping’ and, like Pledge, Mr Sheen and lemon-mungous Jif foam, became household names. Of course, if anyone last year had attempted to put the words ‘Chumbawamba’, ‘have’ and ‘a hit’ in the same sentence they would have been escorted out of the country and left to wallow in penury in deepest Belgium. Even now, 70 squillion sales on, normally salient sorts are gently frothing at the mouth as they struggle to work out exactly why a scrum of hard-faced lentil-munching agitpopping mischief-makers from oooop North should suddenly be transformed from alternative troubadours into pukka pop stars with a vice-like grip on the neck of the Britphobic American market.
One-hit wonders? Yeah, until this week when ‘Amnesia’ marched into the Top Ten. Soggy-brained librarian liberal sellouts? Yeah, until the raucous cheer that follows the mention of the presence of an anti-fascist stall at the back of the venue. Dull Crass copyists manipulating cobwebs in the corner of their mouldy middle eights? Hardly, if this bolshy pop fandango is anything to go by. Chumbawamba have been together for approximately 3,000 years. They look like a cross between The Sugarcubes and Featherstone Rovers rugby club. Tonight is some kind of homecoming, a trip down to the Town & Country having successfully annexed half of the Western world.
To indicate what sort of crowd the Chumbies now attract after years of cult fervour and a couple of smasheroonies, the biggest cheers are for a) the aforementioned anti-fascist stall, b) a cryptic dig at Tony Blair and c) Danbert Nobacon’s quite alarming array of suits, in that particular order. Otherwise, Chumbawamba remain heartily committed to the cause, ie, being bastards of the poppiest order. They have catchy verses. They have catchy choruses. They have catchy catchphrases masquerading as lyrics. They have catchy swear words. They have catchy bloody costume changes. They have ‘Timebomb’, ‘Ugh! Your Ugly Houses’ and a veritable feast of other chirpy, chanty, blood’n’chunder boogaloos which, on their day, can make the decidedly ubiquitous ‘Tubthumping’ sound about as commercial as a Val Doonican ragga mix.
In short, they are the Teletubbies for the angst-ridden generation. So the Chimbychomychumbies can be frothy, and they can be nibblingly repetitive, and the more muso-oriented in the crowd indulge in many sniggerings vis-`-vis the Chumbies’ remedial way with two chords and a chorus usually as subtle as a stab in the eye with a fork. And in this environment it becomes even harder to believe that this single band have outsold 99 per cent of their cooler contemporaries all rolled together in one boggle-headed ball and kicked all round the headquarters of evil, satanic Chumbies’-breaking EMI records.
But! Then old One Little Indian labelmate MC Fusion, aka little fella from Credit To The Nation (ask your vegan Gran, kiddoes!) bowls on and joins the Chumbie womblers for a seething rendition of ‘Enough Is Enough’. All of a sudden it’s like Chumbawamba are stuck at 56 in the charts, the Tories are in power and ‘Tubthumping’ never, ever happened. Not quite All Saints yet, then.