Big Hands v. 5.5 – The Chumbawumba Issue
Posted by Matthew Moyer on May 4, 2010
I know what you’re thinking, I was thinking the exact same thing. “Chumbawumba” and “Zine of the Week” in the same sentence? The band who wrote that lame “I get knocked down” song? C’mon Zine Library, what are you trying to pull? Hear me out. Aaron Smith’s “Big Hands” zines has done the impossible and resuscitated the reputation of a bunch of goofball one-hit wonders.
I picked this one up because I didn’t even think it was possible to fill up a full issue of a zine with info about Chumbawumba. Wrong again! The band has a storied history, which Smith lays out in oddly compelling detail. Did you know, in fact, that Chumbawumba started out as a highly-politicized anarcho-punk band and was even labelmates with the mighty Crass? That the band went in a more techno/electronic direction because they were inspired by the egalitarian nature of rave and acid house events? Or that longtime friend Ian MacKaye stopped talking to them after they signed to a major? This issue is divided into two parts: Smith’s deftly written history (eulogy?) of the band and a collection of sleeve art, lyrics, and early interviews from various punk zines. This is a deft piece of music writing by Smith, and his first extended foray into music criticism.
By the end of Big Hands, you’re left with the impression that Chumbawumba was just a very earnest and idealistic group of artists that tried to pull a “Great Rock N’ Roll Swindle” and instead got chewed up by the pop music machine. (The transcript of the band meeting where they decided to sign to a major was a nice touch.) Whether that absolves them of the sins of making some terrible music, well, that’s up to the individual reader. And check out the nifty cassette of early, angry Chumbawumba!