Wednesday, 20 May 2020

The Chameleons - View From A Hill

Shoegaze Began Here - Part I


The Chameleons - View From A Hill (1983)
I was going to do do a whole thing with 7 or 8 different bands and their legacy on shoegaze/dreampop but once I get The Chameleons on the stereo I'm stuck for days. This tune from 1983 is magnificent! Its contemporaneous with the likes of The Church, Cleaners From Venus, The Blue Orchids, The Cocteau Twins, Durutti Column, The Sound etc. The only thing is hardly anyone knows who The Chameleons are. For those who don't know: They formed in Manchester circa 1981 and I guess they were in the realm of dark yet uplifting post-punk and neo-psychedelia. The three LPs from their original 1981-87 era are all excellent. They even signed to Geffen for the Strange Times (1986) LP but broke up a year later. Interestingly Clive Davis signed the The Church to Arista around the same time David Geffen signed The Chameleons. There must have been something in the air. Anyway this song View From A Hill is from the debut Chameleons album Script Of The Bridge (1983) and is one of my nominations for my upcoming proto-shoegaze post.


The Chameleons - Silence, Sea & Sky (1985)
Maybe I need to start a Dreampop Began Here segment as well. This tune is totally Blue Velvet/Twin Peaks Angelo Badalamenti except it's a year before Blue Velvet and four years before Twin Peaks. You expect Julee Cruise to come in at any minute. Anyhow Silence, Sea & Sky was composed on a Solina which is an ARP string synth. Brilliant stuff.


The Chameleons - Caution
Now lets just get down to the rock! As I said I get stuck on The Chameleons so it might be a couple of weeks before anything else crosses my eardrums. Here's a mammoth and mighty tune from their third LP Strange Times (1986). This is how majestic and intense I always thought Echo & The Bunnymen should have been but they were disappointing poseurs. It didn't matter though because we had The Chameleons.


The Chameleons - Soul In Isolation (1986)
I'm surprised this didn't become the COVID19 anthem. Anyway it was interesting to read in the comments that guitarist Dave Fielding wrote this tune even before the first album Script Of The Bridge (1983) was recorded. It's another dark intense epic. Sometimes they reach a Husker Dü like fever pitch except amongst the claustrophobia there is space for respite until you realise that is dread filled too. Classic.


The Chameleons - Second Skin (1983)
Oh man I've got it bad now I can't stop. The Chameleons are so so fucking good. This song might just be their most satisfying and best. It's got such a wonderful soaring 80s melody and those lyrics... "I dedicate this melody to you... No wonder I feel like I'm floating on air" fit perfectly. Second Skin is a song about great songs that make you feel elated that is a great song that makes you feel elated. What a fucking conceptual triumph! The duel guitar interplay, that insistent mystic rhythm and the round and back again backing vocals fuse together for a swirly trip where you feel like you're "walking on air". Second Skin is just so delicious, delightful & euphoric. I just noticed this tune has had over a million youtube views so perhaps some people are finally catching on to the delectable greatness of The Chameleons. Maybe the mysterious youtube recommendations algorithm has weaved its magic once again (?). For a band that never cracked the top 40 anywhere in the world that's impressive. A true cult band! "This is the stuff dreams are made of."


The Chameleons - Perfume Garden (1985)
Another fine tune with an ecstatic buzz.

When Interpol first came out I was hearing them on the radio all the time and kept thinking "Oh Chameleons must have reformed I'll have to find that cd next time I'm in a record shop." A week or two later my mate brought around some cd burns and one of them was that first Interpol album. So I was shocked and a little disappointed. For a Chameleons tribute band though Interpol did alright. I must admit I never heard any of their following records. I always thought Interpol were what you would have wanted your ultimate high school band to sound like: The Chameleons as your blueprint then chuck in bit of Television, some Died Pretty, a splash of The Sound, add a slice of The Church, a dash of The Smiths with a twist of Joy Division.

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