This Never Ending Now
he last time I saw The Chameleons, one of their amps suddenly decided to visit the great and terrible god of failed electronic goods (who presumably resides inside a huge comet; maybe the Newcastle branch). A swift resurrection was attempted, but it became clear that the sickly equipment could no longer handle the selection of distortion and delay effects necessary to complete the planned show. After a brief discussion amongst the band, a more restrained setlist was cobbled together and we were treated to a wonderful semi-acoustic assortment of past and present material. This Never Ending Now takes a similar approach, stripping back classic Chameleons songs to their essentials, allowing them to stand or fall predominantly on pure songcraft.
This is their second such ‘acoustic revisiting’ album (after 2000’s Strip), but the band have a back-catalogue large enough to avoid any needless repetition. Rarities and anthems alike are selected for reworking: everything from mellow Script of the Bridge closer “A View From A Hill” to the infectious “All Around You” from 2001 comeback album Why Call It Anything? and even lesser known EP material like “Is It Any Wonder?” Despite the variety, the cohesive nature of the album’s concept ensures that everything melds together as a unified whole and not, as may have been feared, a jumble of unconnected songs.
Especially pleasing to the ear are the tracks selected from What Does Anything Mean? Basically. Somewhat muddied on the original record by enveloping layers of delay and other such production shenanigans, they’re given a chance to truly shine here. “Intrigue In Tangiers” and “Home Is Where The Heart Is” both benefit from more direct recording, retaining the power of their original arrangements but gaining a crisper edge—the latter in particular acquiring a gently haunting aspect, courtesy of some hypnotic backing vocals which gradually metamorphose into frenzied whisperings.
In truth though, every single track is quite marvellous. Whilst the (as ever, exceptional) guitar work of Reg Smithies and Dave Fielding softly weaves a toasty-warm acoustic blanket, Mark Burgess reins in his tortured Strange Times voice in favour of an intimate tone more appropriate for this setting. This wraps the blanket still tighter, avoiding a careless roll from the bed of musical sincerity onto the sickly-sweet floor of mollycoddling blandness. It is, fortunately, fairly difficult to sound *too* nice (urgh, can there ever be a more damning word of condemnation?) when casually making references to a masturbating Cupid.
Heartfelt, but never artificially so, these are songs which already spoke volumes—now given an even clearer voice.