1985, Music

What Does Anything Mean? Basically (1980) by The Chameleons

I sort of don’t know why I ended up listening to this. It seemed to have pretty positive reviews and they released so few records, I guess I figured I had to listen to this if I was ever going to listen to any Chameleons record. So here we are.

The Chameleons sound like innumerable other British post punk bands that debuted before them. I listen to this record and I’m kind of mystified by the hype. It’s not that everybody loves them, but some people really do. And I wonder, where were they for the first part of the decade? Is it the keyboard synth intro that tricks them into thinking this is unique? Is it the acoustic guitar?

Listen, I don’t mean to denigrate them. They clearly are decent songwriters and the material is pretty strong. (This is, after all, a genre where you can cost by on lesser material if your aesthetic is dark and moody enough.) And Burgess’ lyrics are good enough – in fact I might say they are above average at the very least.

Sure, Burgess has a commanding voice, but he sounds like many other male British post punk singers, doesn’t he? There’s a certain style and he’s definitely on that spectrum.

And the arrangements – they’re classic post punk. There are some deviations sure – that acoustic guitar, for one – but this is squarely in the post punk sound. Even when they try “rock out” harder than a typical post punk band would – such as on “Return of the Roughnecks” – they still sound like a British post punk band’s version of that. (No mistaking them for a contemporary American rock band, that’s for sure.)

And I’m making such a big deal about this because it’s 1985, not 1980. This record, in 1980, would have been a big deal. A really big deal given its conventional rock edge. I really don’t know why it’s a big deal in 1985. And I have to think that this band is so celebrated because they put out a couple records and broke up. Because what I here is mostly imitation. Good imitation, but imitation nonetheless.


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