Picks and Pans Review: Wysiwyg
Ax grinding has never sounded this good. Chumbawamba, the eight-member self-proclaimed anarchist collective from Leeds, England, has another album of musical agitprop you can dance—and yuk—to. WYSIWYG (computerese for What You See Is What You Get) is the follow-up to their surprise 1997 hit album Tubthumper, which sold 4 million copies thanks to the mega single "Tubthumping," a worker's anthem disguised as a party song. Like its predecessor, this, the group's 10th album, is more than happy, hooks-and-harmonies-laden pop. Underlying the percolating rhythms, tough-to-resist sing-along choruses, appealing lead vocals and amusing sound effects are subversive messages that rail against greed and the consumer culture or warn listeners not to become computer zombies.
Lacking a single with the mainstream hit potential of "Tubthumping," WYSIWYG is a collection of 22 tracks (some of which are more like song bites than actual tunes) that slice and dice their targets with sharply mocking wit. In the opening track, "I'm With Stupid," flavor-of-the-month "white boy bands" get rich by being "happy on demand" and making sure "everything is bland." And "I'm Not Sorry, I Was Having Fun" savages the now generation: "By the time I got to Woodstock/ It was going up in flames." Among the funniest tracks is "Jesus in Vegas," which imagines Christ as a lounge entertainer who takes care of business, à la a certain celebrated late rock king. The song also guarantees that Chumbawamba's renegade status will not be jeopardized by another round of saturation radio play.
Bottom Line: Not quite ready for drive time