Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chameleons - Live Shreds

A friend of mine gave me this CD while as was visiting him at his house. He knew I like the Chameleons UK and he’s not that much into it anyways. Too bad for him, but a million thanks brother!

This is one of the best post-punk bands ever. And the bands up there in my list together with Joy Division, and the Sound, just to name a few.

This is taken of the group’s official website:

Few bands have enjoyed a larger "cult following" than Greater Manchester, England's Chameleons U.K. - known to the rest of the world as simply as The Chameleons - and, accordingly, their brief offshoot bands The Sun and the Moon and The Reegs. Though this commercially unsuccessful quartet split up nine years ago without notice, announcement, or fanfare, the group's ravenous army of scattered fans worldwide have refused to let their uniquely emotional, intensely atmospheric, powerful post-punk slip from the memory.
The demand is such that in the last six years, no less than ten full albums of unreleased Chameleons' material have been released, on two U.S. labels, Dutch East India and caroline, and four English labels, Imaginary, Nighttracks, Glass Pyramid, and Bone Idol: four live LPs of British radio sessions, and three more of studio outtakes and early demos, including the famed scrapped fourth LP sessions from 1987, released as Tony Fletcher Walked on Water.
These ten posthumous collections are even more astounding, when one considers that Chameleons only made three albums(!) during their existence, 1981-1987, the last of which, 1986's double-LP masterpiece Strange Times was even issued two years ago here in the States by original label Geffen Records, bowing to immense public pressure and a flood of fan mail requests. Likewise, their first two LP's, 1983's 58-minute monster debut Script of the Bridge and 1985's astonishing follow-up What Does Anything Mean? Basically, both originally issued on import on Statik, were recently given their second reissue in England via Dead Dead Good Records (A bastardised version of the former with several songs missing appeared here for one season in 1984 on MCA, earning the major label the ire of both the band and the fans. Fortunately, it's now as out of print as The Beatles' Yesterday & Today "butcher sleeve". Think about that reference for a second...).
Got all that? Yeah, it's a hell of a '90s blizzard for an '80s band. Like the one that dumped nearly three feet of snow on my New York apartment this past January. But it's a deluge warranted by the singular quality of the music. Which can only mean still more to come. Thus:
Make that eleven posthumous LP' (and four live ones). You have before you the latest argument for the lasting brilliance of the Chameleons. Rather than flogging a decidedly beaten horse to death, this Live at the Hacienda documents territory quite different from that of its sister releases. The ultimate live statement of the group is definitely the import Live in Toronto (I felt so strongly about this Canadian radio broadcast, I even unwittingly supplied the tape for the release), which catches them in full bloom, from their final ever, devastating tour in North America, February-March 1987. And surely one of Toronto's main advantages is that it hits on all three original LPs material, and that the line-up had tightened over the years of gigging and recording. But Live in the Hacienda boasts a recording as crystal clear and dynamic, only of an infinitely more naive, innocent period of the band, equally fascinating.
It's recorded at the notorious downtown-Manchester dance club (and later "Acid House" palace) The Hacienda. Co-owned by Factory Records boss Tony Wilson and his label's marketplace heavyweight champions New Order, then as now one of the biggest (and hippest) bands in Britain. The place had a big buzz for kick-starting careers. For example, another obscure, unsigned Manchester area band also yet to make their first LP had the sense to gig there in 1983, namely The Smiths!
In such an obviously apropos atmosphere, this short concert predates the recording of Script of the Bridge in 1983; one can tell because "A Person Isn't Safe Anywhere These Days" is introduced as "Men of Steel," from the repeated words of the chorus. Likewise "Thursday's Child" appears here as "Years Ago," with some small differences in the original verses' lyrics. But even if one is not a rabid, frothing Chameleons fanatic/historian, likely to be roused by such ephemera, there can be no question that the little bits of boisterous brilliance are already slotted into place, the cornerstone of the formula that was to inspire endless worship.
Unlike the two year period that predated this concert - see the posthumous Fan and the Bellows (a former indie label release also recently reissued by Geffen) and Dali's Picture collections and the first Peel Session if you are curious for The Chameleons rough-hewed but sometimes knockout diaper phase - we find here the classic line-up that made all their releases finally formulated: young drummer John Lever is comfortable ensconced on drums in relief of earlier pounders Brian Schofield and even original Magazine drummer Martin Jackson, his trademark rhythms, deft touches, and power-style form the solid backbone for the band's epic sweep.
Equally important, The Chameleons here hit on the guitar combination that was to become their main innovation, the unbeatable duo of Dave Fielding's delay-ridden, smouldering, glistening, other-worldly strumming, pitted against Reg Smithies staccato, harsh, post-punk plucking, each note as clearly defined and sharp as Fielding's is blurred and billowing. The marriage of Fielding's cascading tones and the rich, deep bottom end of Burgess's looping bass creates the unbelievably warm textures found once again here, just as Smithies' aggressive precision and Lever's insistent beats supply the forward thrust. The result sounds as fresh and magical today.
Since this concert, which was originally issued in 1994 in Britain with some raw footage as a video, is somewhat on the short side, three songs from another performance of this percolating period are also tacked on, from the previous year at the Gallery. Like six of the seven Hacienda tracks, these three were later properly recorded for Script of the Bridge (the only exception, "In Shreds", was the band's first single, a 7" on the CBS major label, a corporation that did as majors do, dropping the band despite a full sell-out off the few-thousand pressed), but you can hear t


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