Chumbawumba
Guy Lochhead, 30/12/10
English anarcho-punk/pop/club/folk group formed in Burnley in 1982 who have performed in such a variety of genres without compromising their political and ethical views, despite a number of controversially punk career moves such as signing to EMI, playing the BRIT Awards and letting General Motors use one of their songs in an advert – all of which they have explained as activism in subsequent actions and interviews (raising their profile and money for good causes before starting their own label, raising their profile and getting to sing about the Labour party’s lack of support for striking Liverpool dock workers, and funding an environmental and information campaign against General Motors). They are best known for their massive 1997 hit ‘Tubthumping’ (“I get knocked down, but I get up again…”). Their line-up has changed over the years. They currently perform as a five-piece. The main means nothing and was intended to give them a longevity that contemporary politically-named punk groups like Thatcher On Acid might sacrifice. I really respect this band. They balance political activism with accessible pop music that is ACTUALLY LIKED BY A LOT OF PEOPLE, meaning their message gets far more widely heard than if they were, for example, a hardcore band. “Core” punks often have a problem with compromise, so Chumbawumba are not the most popular group in some trendy circles, but I think they are pretty inspirational, adding a rarely-heard voice to public political discourse. They have devoted whole singles, performances and albums to raising a point (see the ‘Jason Donovan – Queer As Fuck’ t-shirts, Letterman performance, ‘Scab Aid’ etc. etc. etc.). Signing to EMI was a genius move that, again, brought their message to more people. I totally agree with them that the majority of labels are founded on capitalist principles so why not get the most out of it for people you sympathise with, and I love the way that pissed some people off so much. It’s like them recording a whole EP of acapella versions of old (as in, 14th Century…) political folk songs and releasing it whilst part of the oi scene, and the band name – they’re making sure punk keeps its eye on the ball. They’re not a perfect group (I think Nobacon was sometimes a bit short-sighted (though I also think the band was at its best when he was in it) and their most recent music is a bit lame) but they are pretty fucking great, with a great head for career moves. I will include the original vinyl of “English Rebel Songs 1381-1913′ and the ‘Tubthumping’ single that brought them to the world.

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