The Chameleons (aka The Chameleons UK) – and in particular Mark Burgess – created a host of incredible post-punk music during the 80’s and beyond. Burgess stormed that period with an immeasurable talent for songwriting that evoked (and still does) an array of deeply felt emotions and clear visuals. Poetic imagery laced with drama-infused vocals completes a very poignant picture with each and every song.
The Chameleons formed in Middleton, England in 1981. The original band was comprised of singer and bassist Mark Burgess, guitarist Reg Smithies, guitarist Dave Fielding, and drummer John Lever. From my perspective, the band used what was to become known as “shoe-gaze” guitar (fuzzy, distorted hooks) a good 10-15 years before that sound took hold as a specific genre. It complimented the moodiness of each song, whether happy or sad, in a particularly successful fashion
Their best-known single, Swamp Thing, is a mesmerizing blend of jangle guitar interspersed with thrumming bass and provocative lyrics. Widespread release of Swamp Thing earned the Chameleons a very loyal and devoted following, but not anything of the magnitude that this band deserved. One very dark song in particular haunts me in a way that is difficult to describe: Soul In Isolation. It became my mantra during a very dark period in my life and feels like an old friend each time I play it. That song hosted my innermost fears and deepest secrets, much like a best friend in time of need.
Burgess and company continue to tour and play timeless, meaningful music. Give them a visit on their website: http://www.thechameleons.com/ (Author’s note – the website seems to be down at the time of this writing – I’m hoping this is just a temporary occurrence). If you’ve never had the pleasure of hearing The Chameleons in action, treat yourself. If it has been a while since you’ve listened, take the time to get reacquainted. This is a vitally important band with a lot to say in a manner that will hook you in.
“Soul In Isolation” via YouTube user LefthandOfDarkness:
“Up The Down Escalator” via YouTube user martind1000:
“Monkeyland” via YouTube user martind1000:
Discography (via Wikipedia):
- 1983 Script of the Bridge (Statik; issued 1984 on MCA in the US; reissued 2008 as 25th Anniversary 2CD edition)
- 1985 What Does Anything Mean? Basically (Statik)
- 1986 Strange Times (Geffen)
- 2000 Strip (Paradiso)
- 2001 Why Call It Anything? (Artful)
- 2002 This Never Ending Now (Paradiso)
Compilations (via Wikipedia):
- 1986 The Fan and the Bellows (Hybrid)
- 1990 John Peel Sessions (Strange Fruit)
- 1992 Here Today…Gone Tomorrow (Imaginary)
- 1993 The Radio 1 Evening Show Sessions (Nighttracks)
- 1993 Dali’s Picture/Live in Berlin (Imaginary)
- 1994 Northern Songs (Bone Idol)
- 1997 Return of the Roughnecks: The Best of the Chameleons (2CD) (Dead Dead Good)