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The Chameleons: Script Of The Bridge

"Script of the Bridge by The Chameleons is our 3rd Hidden Gem."

 

 

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Script Of The Bridge by The Chameleons

Released August 1983 on Statik Records


Tracklisting
   1. Don't Fall - 4:06
   2. Here Today - 3:57
   3. Monkeyland - 5:17
   4. Second Skin - 6:51
   5. Up the Down Escalator - 3:57
   6. Less than Human - 4:12
   7. Pleasure and Pain - 5:11
   8. Thursday's Child - 3:32
   9. As High as You Can Go - 3:35
  10. A Person Isn't Safe Anywhere These Days - 5:43
  11. Paper Tigers - 4:17
  12. View from a Hill - 6:39

 



The Chameleons (called The Chameleons UK on some American releases) were a post-punk band that formed in Manchester in 1981. They consisted of singer and bassist Mark Burgess, guitarist Reg Smithies, guitarist Dave Fielding, and drummer John Lever (replacing original drummer Brian Schofield). The core quartet were sometimes augmented live by keyboardists Alistair Lewthwaite and Andy Clegg in the 1980s, and percussionist/vocalist Kwasi Asante during their reunion period (ex-Magazine drummer Martin Jackson also briefly replaced Lever during 1982-83 while the latter was on sabbatical).


Through Mark Burgess' vocals and dark and ironic lyrics, their songs often dealt with personal themes of childlike innocence and a reverence for nostalgia. Musically, perhaps most notable in their work was the band's innovative and distinctive use of dual guitar melodies, courtesy of Reg Smithies and Dave Fielding, as opposed to the traditional rhythm-and-lead guitarist format prevalent in rock music even to this day. These arrangements were often characterized by the use of delay and chorus effects. Dave played a melodic and atmospheric guitar while Reg played a more traditional riff-based guitar.


The band initially released three studio albums in the 1980s, following 1982 debut single "In Shreds" (the fruit of a brief signing to Epic), and several radio sessions for late legendary Radio 1 DJ John Peel. The Chameleons released their first full-length studio LP, the critically-acclaimed Script of the Bridge, on the Statik label in 1983. The album features a blend of rhythmic electric guitar textures, providing a moody and intense backdrop for Mark Burgess' haunting vocals.

 

With two years, numerous radio sessions, and incessant gigging under their belts since their debut single, ‘In Shreds,' the Chameleons came to the studio determined to make a great first album with Script of the Bridge.

Script remains a high-water mark of what can generally be called post-punk music, an hour's worth of one amazing song after another, practically a greatest-hits record on its own; the John Lennon tribute ‘Here Today', ‘Monkeyland', ‘Pleasure and Pain', ‘Paper Tigers', ‘As High as You Can Go', the breathtaking closer, ‘View From a Hill'.
Starting with the passionate fire of ‘Don't Fall', Script showcases how truly inventive, unique, and distinctly modern rock & roll could exist, instead of relentlessly rehashing the past to little effect. The scalpel-sharp interplay between the musicians is a sheer wonder to behold, the Dave Fielding/Reg Smithies guitar team provoke nothing but superlatives throughout, and John Lever and Mark Burgess make a perfect rhythm section, while the crisp production of Colin Richardson and the band adds delicate synth lines and shadings, courtesy of early touring keyboardist Alistair Lewthwaite, and just the right amount of reverb and effects on the guitars. Add to that the words of Burgess, one of the few lyricists out there who can tackle Big Issues while retaining a human, personal touch, and it all just adds up perfectly. The best one-two punch comes from ‘Second Skin', a complex, beautifully arranged and played reflection on the meaning of music and fandom, and ‘Up the Down Escalator', an at once harrowing and thrilling antinuclear/mainstream politics slam.

 

A word to the wise; avoid at all costs the original U.S. vinyl issue on MCA, which not only switches the song order but removes a full third of the songs!

 


After their third release, 1986's Strange Times and the 1987 sudden death of band manager Tony Fletcher, they abruptly disbanded. Burgess then fronted The Sun and the Moon (with Lever), who issued only one eponymous album on Geffen in 1988, followed by an array of solo projects. Guitarists Fielding and Smithies formed The Reegs, who released two albums: Return of the Sea Monkeys (1991) and Rock the Magic Rock' (1993). John Lever later joined Bushart, who released the album Yesterday is History (2008).


The Chameleons were, for all practical purposes, extinct for well over a decade before a small series of successful live dates in 2000 and the concurrent release of the album Strip (which reworked older material in an acoustic format). After a final studio album, 2001's Why Call It Anything?, another unplugged album (This Never Ending Now), and a successful reunion tour which took them across Europe and the United States, the band dissolved once again in early 2003 due to personal differences.


Although The Chameleons never attained the level of commercial success or fame enjoyed by their contemporaries like The Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen, their body of work is still critically acclaimed within the music press and influenced bands as diverse as Puressence, Interpol, Editors, White Lies, and The Horrors.

 

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previous Hidden Gems:

Volume2 - 'And You Thought You Were Normal' - Nash The Slash

Volume1 - 'Heartworm' - Whipping Boy