HOMETOWN: Leeds, England
LATEST ALBUM: Tubthumper (Republic/Universal)
REASON YOU’VE NOTICED THEM: Their hit, ”Tubthumping,” a drinking song-cum-football chant with the year’s most anthemic chorus.
HOW THEY WOULD DESCRIBE THEIR SOUND IF THEY WERE ROCK CRITICS: ”It’s got a backbone of dance beats with big uplifting pop choruses and sparky, sardonic comments left, right, and center,” says group spokesperson Alice Nutter (percussion/vocals).
HOW WE WOULD DESCRIBE THEIR SOUND: The Clash meet the Spice Girls.
TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC: Lumpen pop-loving proletarians.
FASHION SENSE: Army trousers (”they don’t show the dirt as much”) and funny-colored hair.
TRIUMPHANT TALE OF HOW THEY BEAT THE ODDS: Possibly the year’s least likely success story, Chumbawamba began in the early ’80s as scruffy punks spouting anarchistic agitprop. Through steady gigs and recording, they grew adept at writing catchy, populist ditties. Fifteen years on, they’re still commie punks but on a major label and with a worldwide hit single. Their secret? ”We’ve never put selling records above being honest,” says Nutter.
FUNKY FACT: Chumbawamba walk it like they talk it: ”We share our money equally. We pay our roadies the same amount that we get,” says Nutter.
IF CHUMBAWAMBA WERE A BREAKFAST CEREAL, THEY WOULD BE: No-frills no-brand cornflakes (anything else would be decadent and bourgeois).
STOCK QUOTE ON THE PITFALLS OF FAME: ”Media attention can really hurt you. They dictate what you’ll look like and how people will perceive you. All they have to do is play with a few words here and there.”
LEAD SINGER’S INSTANT CHARISMA RATING (OUT OF A POSSIBLE FIVE): One point for each of the five vocalists.
ALBUMS THAT NEVER LEAVE THE TAPE PLAYER ON THEIR TOUR BUS: The Bonzo Dog Band’s The Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse; Jeff Buckley’s Grace; the Beatles’ White Album.
WHAT’S NEXT: Touring the States. ”We’ve done a video for our second single, ‘Amnesia,’ but we can’t release it yet because ‘Tubthumping’ is doing so well,” says Nutter.