The Chameleons were in dispute with their record label Statik, the band unhappy with the promotion of their debut album. But before they could leave the label, they needed to turn in a second album, hence The Chameleons spent around six weeks in the studio recording What Does Anything Mean? Basically
, a phrase they came up with during an acid trip.
Many of the songs here had already been previously rejected for inclusion on the band's debut album, and some were tracks originally recorded for radio sessions, so there's only one or two brand new songs. Despite the mixed pedigree, What Does Anything Mean? Basically
seems like a natural progression from Script of the Bridge
, and a worthwhile addition to their catalogue.
Mark Burgess has that same turned-on glowering quality to his vocals, and the band still rejoice in echo and pedal delays, yet synthesizers play a larger part within the overall sound. The swirling, passionate, and stadium-filling kind of sound from their debut is still apparent, but they mix in softer elements less reliant on angular and hypnotic guitar lines.
The early 80's alternative music scene was still dominated by post Joy Division darkness - all shimmering guitars, and lyrically reflecting the rather hopeless state of the United Kingdom at the time, what with high unemployment and plenty to rally against. Dreams and nightmares went hand-in-hand back then, hence bands like The Chameleons and early Echo and The Bunnymen. What amazes me to this day however, is how a band like The Chameleons could pop up, take some elements from Joy Division yet craft their own unique sound. Such a wonderful thing doesn't seem to happen so much these days.
The encouragingly energetic "Intrigue in Tangiers" is the album's longest song, amounting to just over five minutes of echo-filled drumming, obediently beating basslines, and Mark Burgess's typically sweet and sour, large and weary vocals. "Perfume Garden" is also a highlight with jerky drum patterns contrasting with fractured guitar lines and again robust vocals from Burgess.
by Reviewer: Adrian Denning
(blogging at Adrian's Album Reviews