CHICAGO Chumbawamba will celebrate their 20th anniversary in
January by doing what they do best waxing political on an
album that explores new territory for the tubthumping anarchist rave
The as-yet-untitled release will combine dance tracks with samples of
British folk tunes, singer Dunstan Bruce said Tuesday at the Chicago
Underground Film Festival at the famed Biograph Theater. His remarks
accompanied the Stateside premiere of Chumbawamba's documentary,
"Well Done. Now Sod Off."
"The last album flopped terribly," Bruce said of 2000's
WYSIWYG (see "Chumbawamba Returning With New Album,
Bassist"). "It was a real cut-and-paste album. This is more a
collection of songs. It's more of a post-punk album than an
WYSIWYG's poor sales cost the Chumbas their European record
deal with EMI, though their American label, Universal Records, is
scheduled to release their new album early next year a shocker
even to Bruce.
"Universal must have a lot of copies [of WYSIWYG] in a
warehouse somewhere," he joked. In all seriousness (which with this
band, as their documentary shows, isn't terribly serious),
Chumbawamba have quit trying to top the charts with another
"We've given up trying to figure out what makes a radio-friendly
single," Bruce said. "We've tried and it doesn't work. We don't know,
so we just do what we want to do." As fellow singer Alice Nutter says
in "Sod Off," "We get a lot of crap for being a one-hit wonder, but
we always expected to be a no-hit wonder."
Like all the band's previous recordings, the new album features
political statements likely to stir up controversy, at least in their
British homeland. One track attacks U.K. law enforcers for shooting
and killing a man they believed was armed, but who was actually
carrying a table leg in a paper bag.
"Well Done. Now Sod Off" explains Chumbawamba's nonconformist ideals and chronicles the eight-member punk collective through their years
of communal living and political activism, which peaked at 1998's
Brit Awards when they doused England's deputy prime minister with
Directed by Ben Unwin, "Sod Off" is as much comedy as political
statement, however. Bruce and cohorts are hilarious as they reminisce
about their shoplifting contests who could steal the strangest
item? before each gig. Bruce also laughs his way through
several reviews and letters slamming Chumbawamba. One critic wrote,
"Everyone should hear this album to know what horrible music sounds
like." Another ended a sarcastic review, "Well done Chumbawamba. Now
sod off!" hence the film's title.
According to Bruce, the group originally planned to release a
compilation of their videos until the Sex Pistols' "The Filth and the
Fury," Fugazi's "Instrument" and Radiohead's "Meeting People Is
Easy" inspired them to do a documentary: "Besides, our videos
aren't that good anyway."
"When we had the success with 'Tubthumping,' a lot of people thought
that was our first album. We wanted to let people know we had a huge
history," Bruce added. "And now when our kids think we were really
square, we can say, 'This is what I did for the punk war.' "
Chumbawamba will continue to show "Well Done. Now Sod Off" at film
festivals for the rest of the year. Next year they hope to broadcast
it on television overseas.