No more Tubthumping for Chumbawamba

Posted on March 6, 2010

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*Article orginally appeared in The Hackney Post

“I get knocked down, but I get up again/You’re never gonna keep me down”.

Those simple lyrics, and perhaps soaking John Prescott with water at the 1998 Brit Awards, are what come to mind for most people when they think of Chumbawamba.

But for the band that briefly shot to fame in 1997 with their alcohol-soaked pop anthem to a night-on-the-town, folk music is now the order of the day – with “Tubthumping” nowhere to be seen.

“I think when people come and see us now, they know that they’re not going to get that,” trumpet player Jude Abbott tells The Hackney Post, shortly before their gig at the cosy Passing Clouds in Dalston. “When we went acoustic it didn’t really work, because it hasn’t really got much of a tune. It’s fine, most people have moved on from that.”

Remarkably, Chumbawamba have been playing together for almost 28 years, and lead singer Boff Whalley is keen to emphasise there is more to the band than the rowdy pop-punk that gave them their biggest hit.

“It’s funny,” he says. “When we did ‘Tubthumping,’ the people who used to come and see us for the ten years prior to that thought that was a big, new departure. And now that’s the old stuff.”

The band’s set, entirely acoustic, features plenty of numbers from their new album, ABCDEFG, as well as some older ones. The new songs are heavily influenced by the band’s left-wing politics, with lyrics attacking the likes of Margaret Thatcher and the BNP.

Some of the highlights include “Torturing James Hetfield” – a swipe at the Metallica frontman for condoning the use of his band’s songs for torture in Guantanamo Bay – and “Add Me,” which mocks Facebook users with the refrain “Add Me / My mother said she wished she’d never had me”.

Not everybody is happy with the band’s new sound. A group of punks, clearly expecting to hear more of the band’s early material, are disappointed by the change of direction and voice their displeasure towards the end. But, in general, the crowd at the packed venue seem appreciative of what the quintet are trying to do.

Whalley can’t promise that the band won’t change their musical direction again, however.

“I don’t think anything’s permanent in the band,” he says. “It keeps us interested to keep changing and thinking what we’re going to do next. We don’t want to end up like Oasis, releasing the same album 17 times.”

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Posted in: Music