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Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Chameleons: Dali's Picture


1) Everyday And Crucified; 2) Monkeyland; 3) Dreams In Celluloid; 4) Love Is; 5) The Fan And The Bellows; 6) Looking Inwardly; 7) Dali's Picture; 8) Nostalgia; 9) Less Than Human; 10) Things I Wish I'd Said.

Another archival release, and a good case could be built for it actually being the single best Chameleons album out there. Although precise details on the package are lacking, these ten tracks all seem to predate the sessions for Script Of The Bridge, going back to 1981-82 when the band did not yet have a stable recording contract and, more importantly, no connection to Colin Richardson — meaning that the production on this sounds all late Seventies post-punk rather than early Eighties gloss. Just as it was with Peel Sessions, the one band member to really benefit from this is the drummer; but on the whole, there is far more punkish anger and energy here than even on Script, let alone all the later records.

Indeed, in the beginning The Chameleons were quite a tight, vicious little outfit, and you can easily see this by comparing ʽSecond Skinʼ with its early prototype, here named ʽDreams In Cel­luloidʼ. Where the final product ended up more like a dream-pop song, with ambient keyboards, cavernous guitars, and romantic vocals, the original was all guitar-based, and those guitars sounded sharper and deadlier, and all of the song's melodic elements were fully on the surface rather than buried deep in the mix, to be more felt than heard. Without denying the benefits of the final version, I insist that both have to be heard in order to appreciate this band more — and that the old version lets you form a positive impression of the band's songwriting abilities more quickly than the new one.

The band did have some fabulous guitar riffs in their inventory — ʽThe Fan And The Bellowsʼ, combining vicious punk verses with romantic pop choruses, is a great example of how they could kick as much ass as The Jam one minute and then serenade as sweetly as The Smiths the next one, in between lyrics about masturbating Cupids and manipulating bitches. ʽEveryday And Crucifiedʼ is one of the most paranoid and tense tunes they ever did, even if its debt to Joy Division is all too obvious (but whose isn't?). On the other hand, the title track and ʽNostalgiaʼ are spiky little power pop numbers, particularly the latter with its truly nostalgic chorus — as good as anything that, say, The Bats and their like ever recorded.

One cannot escape certain limitations of format, of course, and the band's total dependence on «chugging» rhythm guitar, which was already a little boring on Script Of The Bridge, is even more noticeable in this stripped-down format — now you could actually argue that Colin Richardson's production techniques were precisely a well-calculated scenario to distract attention away from these limitations. But if you like this style of music, there is no denying that every single song on here has its own melody — plus all that energy of youth and excitement of disco­very, one that would very soon whittle away as the band became studio pros. Heck, in a way, this might be the only Chameleons album you'll ever need in your collection, unless you are a big fan of Eighties' overproduction. Thumbs up, totally.


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    1. Looks like you hit the wall of boredom...if I were about to review Chicago records I'd give up too.....

      Here's some bands with a pulse...

      Channel Three