Or so they say on the lengthy treatise on the state of modern music that graces the cover of "The Boy Bands Have Won" - one of Chumbawamba's last discs to ever come out - they broke up recently, and it's a shame, because this shows a dramatic shift in their style - from the pop-rock of the late 90's, to the more esoteric techno-rock of the early 2000's - and here, they do straight up acoustic and folk tunes - and it sounds bloody amazing - and the soft and mild manner of the songs is so disarming it makes the cutting commentary all the more potent.
"When An Old Man Dies" opens the disc with a short lament, which folds neatly into the gently strolling "Add Me" - if there is a more scathing parody of the facebook generation and all the trappings therein, I haven't heard it yet - and with a song this cutting and incisive - probably won't for a while.
Each verse spins a tale of classic "internet creepers", each more messed up than the last - and yet one lyric sums the whole thing up so perfectly with "I don't like people but I like to pretend". Indeed. This follows up with the vocal-only "Words can save us" - which both poses a question and makes a statement all in one short plea of a song that leaves you wondering what it is they actually think - and this vagueness makes it an inscrutable piece, and yet more powerful all the same. Following shortly after is a song that rides along on a simple fingersnap to keep the beat and is - well - far too up-beat sounding a number for a song that tells the tale of a hero executed by firing squad. Really, you just have to hear it.
From that peppy atmosphere, a mournful stretch sets in - "Unpindownable" rides a gentle acoustic guitar and light orchestral touches, carrying along a slight, wispy-voiced anti-conformity tune - short and slight, but powerful still because it comes, makes its impact, then goes. The next song is a gut-wrenchingly sad number - "I Wish That They'd Sack Me" almost plays as a forecast of the future - given this album came out on March 3, 2008 - months before the banking collapse in the fall of that same year - after which I can only imagine many feeling the way the protagonist of this song does. Sure, they were the lucky ones who survived, but only surviving isn't really enough - and again, the words cut deep - "Waste my time working / for cowards and creeps / oh I wish that they'd sack me / and leave me to sleep" - and that is true no matter how well off (or not) you may be.
Having been around since 1986, and having a thing for tearing down supposedly pompous individuals, some targets ring a bit stale - in "All fur coat and no knickers" - the predictable "Lord bono and his pals / they were a bit too busy saving the world" is a bit of an all-too-easy stab at U2 and Bono's [purportedly] over-hyped/over-caffeinated activism.
"Words Flew Right Around The World" continues with a less-clever, yet still amusing, lark on how social media and the hyper-connected nature of the internet make it so easy for stories to become sensationalized in a matter of minutes - seconds even. "Sing About Love" is another vocal-only ditty that hints at the fact that though they are a muckraking band at heart, they do long for the time where they have more good things to sing about - a welcome sign of hope to balance some of the darker tracks on this disc.
"Compliments of your waitress" is a sly lark of a story track - what the patrons of your average diner looks like to the employee - with a delightfully twisted end that while twisted, is just desserts indeed.
At the end of it all what you get is a "just right" length slice of muckraking folk-pop with the kind of sly wit and intellectual heft that only Chumba can deliver. Well worth the listen.