Anarchy is a state of organisation without authority. Where people can organise their lives without being told what to do. It’s a state of freedom and equality where our only constraints are responsibility to each other’s needs. Basically Chumbawamba has this belief, but that belief would be stupid if we didn’t try to put it into practise in some way. So we organise ourselves along anarchist lines. We don’t vote, as we believe that ‘democracy’ (as people see it) leads to people being dissatisfied – there are eight of us, and we feel it’s useless having five people happy about a decision and three people unhappy. Everything is discussed and debated and argued and compromised; it may take a little longer, but eventually we have a decision which we all agree on. This is how we, as a group of people, have managed to maintain our relationships in work for over 15 years. Anarchism is the spread of this type of organisation across communities and states and countries, where people really do feel that they are part of their community and not just some nodding dog who is required to put a cross in a box every five years. We believe in class, in revolution, and in the death of all manufactured boy-bands. [From Chumbawamba’s website]
It’s really hard to believe that the EMI-signing pop superstars responsible for Tubthumping (a repetitive football chant that now sounds somewhat embarrassing to this listener) were the same who, back in the mid-eighties, were more radical than Crass in their politics, and even released an album called Pictures Of Starving Children Sell Records (a critique of Band Aid). They lived in a communal house in Leeds, played gigs in small venues in support of anti-war movements and animal rights, and formed their own Agit-Prop record label, which spawned the EP Revolution. This had four songs, all called Revolution, that were experimental yet direct in their attack on factory employers: one featured John Lennon’s Imagine played on a distorted music system and being savagely ripped off the turntable halfway through. The final track, Revolution-Liberation (FF 1985 #6) still sounds fresh and urgent in its call to arms. This was followed three years later by an album of English Rebel Songs 1381-1914 composed entirely of traditional tunes.
The 90s saw an expansion of the band’s idiom to include more popularly oriented material such as techno, and a move to the One Little Indian label:Timebomb (FF 1993 #28) is definitely more radio-friendly than the in-your-face earlier material, its opening hook being derived from Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth (however, it only reached 59 in the UK charts…the world obviously wasn’t ready for them yet).
However, the lyrics were as uncompromising as ever (‘Hear the shattering of your expectations…in a world full of no-ones, I am a someone’), and the resultant album, Anarchy, was notorious for featuring a baby in the process of being born on the front cover.