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Chumbawamba returns with surprising mixture

Since Chumbawamba first broke on to the American music scene in 1997, their ubiquitous one hit wonder, "Tubthumping," earned the band recognition while blurring the line between ska, punk and pop.

But while everyone remembers the "I get knocked down, but I get up again" song, most would be hard pressed to identify its creators.

It has been three years since Chumbawamba last released a song for public consumption in the U. S., but "WYSIWYG", the band's new album, should provide an explanation for its hiatus. As hard as it may be for the band's detractors to believe, "WYSIWYG" provides 48 minutes of unexpected musical wizardry.

Although Beck reigns master of musical genre-blending, Chumbawamba demonstrates similar talents with "WYSIWYG". Featuring The Armley Community Orchestra on "The Standing Still" and "What You Get" (a hidden track), the album also uses a turntable, trombone, saxophone, steel guitar, banjo and keyboard to go with the standard guitar, bass and drum ensemble.

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    "Shake Baby Shake" is a toe-tapping song with a relaxed horn section and harmonious vocals from Alice Nutter. "Social Dogma" comes from a different breed of song altogether; an acoustic guitar creates a bluegrass feel à la recent Jimmy Buffett material. Background sound and vocal effects from a programmer also add a unique and easy sound.

    Most of "WYSIWYG" does not follow this low-key tempo, however. "I'm With Stupid," the opening track, boasts a fun chorus with record scratches that back up three vocalists. "Hey Hey We're the Junkies" brings the brass section to the forefront at the chorus and maintains a thick bassline which drives the song along. The drumming of Harry Hamer is also notable; he demonstrates the soft, subtlety reminiscent of Led Zeppelin's legendary John Bonham.

    "WYSIWYG" continues Chumbawamba's tradition of flipping the bird at the establishment with songs like "Ladies For Compassionate Lynching," "Smart Bomb," and "Lie Lie Lie Lie," which pokes fun at Hollywood. Even the song titles are irreverent; "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Jerry Springer" and "Moses With a Gun" are two examples.

    The first single from the album, "She Has All the Friends," is a sarcastic admonishment of rich daddy's girls. While one might expect such a song to alienate most of the band's American preppy high school contingent, it contains many of the musical elements - including a catchy chorus - that made "Tubthumping" such a hit.

    While Chumbawamba may never drop the stigma of "pissing the night away," "WYSIWYG" has the ability to showcase its true musical aptitude.