Friday, 4 March 2016

50 albums to take to my grave #31: Shhh; and #32: Levelling The Land

The reason I'm lumping these two records together is because of the huge importance they have in a certain period of my life. I won't spend time repeating myself - I posted three articles a couple years ago about the bands concerned that tell the story pretty well; [here], [here] and [here] - so I'll just deal with these records and what they represent.

I found out a hell of a lot about myself during the early 90s. I realised that despite coming from a modest working-class family in a sleepy westcountry market town, there was actually quite a lot about life I didn't like and that there was an alternative, a lifestyle I embraced. I found a new group of people who would become good friends. We had a lot of fun together, I learned a lot from them. Of significance was the music I discovered.

Both Chumbawamba and the Levellers were bands I was everso slightly aware of before, but thanks to my new-found crowd, they became two of my favourite bands. 'Shhh' was Chumbawamba's fourth full-length album and to this day I love it. It was an album I was hooked on and probably my most played record over a two or three year period. It led to me seeing them no fewer than 10 times and to this day it is an album I can listen to without a shade of irony or embarrassment. 'Shhh' represents a kind of political awakening in me, when I realised I actually had opinions that mattered and that other people shared them. It's also packed with bloody good songs loaded with energy, force and bile, but always generously laced with humour and fun.

'Levelling The Land' was similar in many ways. Its messages were pertinent to my way of thinking about things and once again I learned a lot from it. The Levs were one of the best live bands around at the time. This was the band's second album and became their breakthrough. I still have my original CD copy, the one with the original tracklisting (they scored a hit with a non-album track which was then grafted onto a re-issued version by the record label eager to cash-in on what they probably thought would be very short-lived success). I haven't played it much in the last 20 years, but believe me it got a fair amount of spins back in the day.

Whether a record is artistically brilliant or not is open for discussion and generally rather subjective. What can never be argued is the personal impact some records have on a person. These two were monumental in their influence on me. They played a significant part in making me the person I am today. You may want to check out those links above to the early articles I mentioned in order to fully understand where I'm coming from, but I'm pretty sure everyone has records that really mean something to them in terms of their lives, not just because those records are deemed worthy by the so-called critics. And let's face it - how many records of the last 10 years or so have politically inspired today's 20/30-somethings? I mean, people like Frank Turner may shout about certain issues now and again, but he went to Eton with Prince William so he's hardly a credible role model for any underground counter-culture.

The tracks I've chosen to represent these albums were my faves at the time (and probably still are). Bigmouth Strikes Again and Sometimes Plunder were always big hits at Chumbawamba gigs, while Riverflow was the fastest, loudest, sweatiest song in the Levellers' live set which guaranteed me diving headlong into the pit without a care. Another Man's Cause is a touching highlight from 'Levelling The Land' and 25 years on it remains sadly poignant.

Great albums? Classics? Timeless and seminal? Maybe, maybe not, but they have been a part of me for nigh-on two and a half decades and that's all that is needed to qualify their inclusion here.



  1. Pretty sure Jeremy from The Levellers was privately educated. And I know for a fact that at least two of Chumbawamba were.

    1. Which two of Chumbawamba? And how do you know, anon?