[…continued from last post]
Was there ever a Post-Punk title more appropriate than “Looking Inwardly?” The music, more than lived up to the promise in such a moniker with cascades of drums and guitars building to powerful crescendos as Burgess, laid down his ethos. While “Singing Rule Brittania” was the only single released in the UK from the album, “One Flesh” went as far as a French promo 7″ that will set you back three figures today. The dreamlike guitars tumbled on a long delay until the middle eight, where the sound tightened up and the drums dropped out for several bars before new, more complex rhythms asserted their place in the second half of the song.
“Home Is Where The Heart is” was erected on an foundation of military tattoos and swells of shimmering synths. The guitars joined eventually to toughen up the sound, but only somewhat. The spotlight was mostly for the rhythm and the cinematic clouds of synth. At this point in the album, I was thinking of another album from about the same time period that I also loved and also trafficked in a similar brand of atmospheric Post-Punk and theme: “Brighter Than A Thousand Suns” by Killing Joke. In fact, it can be argued that there were even vocal similarities between Mark Burgess and Jaz Coleman. Let’s say that they are concerned with the big picture and were definitely not crooners. The modulating synth figure that was all that remained of this one by its coda was as chilling as anything Killing Joke might have done around the same time.
The closing “P.S. Goodbye” was a more placid note on which the album originally ended. The guitars were gentler and the instrumental coda with the synths predominating was almost wistful for this otherwise melancholy album. But this CD was the 1995 edition and there were two bonus tracks appended to the running order that were not on the original vinyl.
The Chameleons originally were signed to CBS Records in 1981, and released one single that year, “In Shreds.” Their debut as produced by Steve Lillywhite but they had a difference of opinion with the label and left for other climes. Ending up at Statik instead. In early 1985, prior to this album, Statik re-released the debut single and the A/B-sides of the 7″ single were added as bonus tracks.
“In Shreds” was a more rough and tumble affair without any of the synthesizer stylings of the current album. It was a bit closer to the 1981 Killing Joke mark. The drums were more brutal and the guitars less tranquil. As for Burgess, he always gave it his all, no matter how polished the music might be. By the song’s end here he was screaming “you’ve become part of the machinery” with acute venom over the pounding drums and circular guitar riff that wound up disappearing into the singularity of sound that ended the song.
“Nostalgia,” by turns, was a more laid back groove. Burgess was not shouting here and the melody was far less dark, even if the lyrics weren’t. The addition of these songs on the album served to point out how much development of sound the band had undergone in four years. The slight sprinkling of synths here were seeds that had obviously taken root in the intervening years.
It’s kind of ironic. I used to have the US LPs of “Script Of A Bridge” and “Strange Times,” But sold those off a generation ago with the intent of getting them on CD. Particularly when I found out that’ “Script Of A Bridge” had been shorn of a third of its songs time for American release! But I have never bought those CDs. I never run into them. Meanwhile, the second album, which I never heard back in the day,” is the only Chameleons album in the Record Cell today.
Listening to “What Does Anything Mean? Basically” today, I can certainly hear a lot of parallels between The Chameleons at this time and with my entry point into the world of Killing Joke. To my ears, this has the same aura of melancholy and resistance that Killing Joke were definitely exploring on the “Brighter Than A Thousand Suns” album. It’s a smoother sound delving into choppy emotional waters where society is buffeting the personae of the writers. These songs sound [as do Killing Joke’s as well] like warnings from the front lines of society’s crushing pressures.
Burgess and Coleman were each working out their response to the terrible stimuli that was being fed to them from all corners. The music wept with the ineffable sense of the loss of something precious and dignified as each singer railed against the injustice of it all. I really must try to buy those other two albums that bookend this one as I have vary fond memories of then from the era but have not heard them in decades.
I see that they are available for less than a king’s ransom, but the LPs of “Script Of A Bridge” are bearing down on three figures now. Even the shredded US edition is aiming for $50. But I’ve no interest in the LPs. What I’m curious about are the reformation era CDs. The band managed two more albums in 2000 and 2001 before parting ways once again and I’m interesting in finding out how they sound. The band was a compelling mix of dreams and nightmares; the rough and the smooth that congealed into a powerful whole.