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Negativland/Chumbawamba

The ABCs of Anarchism
(Seeland)

To all you Johnny Rebs and Rottens who genuflect to the anarchist's symbol, to every weekend "reactionary" who ever spray-painted the Hester Prynne-sized letter A in an alley, then circled the scraggly looking thing with a hearty, shitfaced laugh -- listen up, little heroes: Recess is over. Your new two-headed babysitter Negativland/Chumbawamba has a grueling lesson plan and more than enough dunce caps to go around. With remedial assistance from the Teletubbies (make that the Roly Polies, copyright watchdogs) and the Spice Girls (make that the Dunce Cap Girls) plus the smarts of Doris Lessing, Noam Chomsky and Mr. Squeaky Carrot, this three-song EP has enough appropriated sound collage, eclectic noise and hairpin turns in logic to make the unruliest of toddlers forget both his bad manners and his milk money.

This release is worth every lawsuit the oft-litigated Negativland is begging for -- regardless of Jerry Falwell's glaring absence -- and it's all patched together with enough curiosities and ornery jokes to demand multiple listens. Alexander Berkman's 1929 book of the same title provides the foundation for the opening cut, a sprawling opus that clocks in at just under thirteen minutes. Amid much bird-twittering, caustic ruckus and Chumba sampling of a "friendly, stupid weatherman," David Wills (core member from Negativland's 1980 inception) humbly narrates, emphasizing most eggheadedly what anarchism is and is not. Ultimately, it's left to you, the listener, to decide. Are monopolies, oppression, poverty and violence your cup of tea? Or is a society "where all men and women are free...where we all equally enjoy the benefits of an order and a sensible life" what you want, what you want, what you really, really want?

The other two tracks, "Smelly Water" and "© Is for Stupid" offer more accessibility: The former is a sing-songy animatronic puppet show energized by a dubbed-out Maxwell House coffee jingle that decries the high crimes of multi-national corporate polluters; the latter is an ultra-hyphenated and amusing head-splitter pitting Wills, James Brown, Cookie Monster and some gangsta-Tubbies against the titans of capital and copyright law.

Bully for this abbreviated work from our San Franciscan sonic outlaws. And bully for Chumbawamba, whose anti-Thatcher roots haven't been diluted (yet) from four million sold copies of multi-platinum Tubthumping. Together they make a formidable Siamese twin, a worthy transatlantic brotherhood. So climb aboard this musical bumper car, kiddies. If you're over 48 inches tall, you get to ride alone.

 
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