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The Chameleons – Script Of The Bridge – 40th Anniversary reissue.

The Chameleons – Script Of The Bridge – 40th Anniversary reissue.

The Band.

Post-punk act, The Chameleons are bone fide musical legends. At least they are in North Manchester. For a band that co-existed during the same era as The Smiths and the heyday of New Order it still comes as a surprise that The Chameleons didn’t find the same levels of UK wide success as their peers. All the ingredients were in place. In Mark Burgess The Chameleons had a lyricist who could take an everyday turn of phrase and make it sound almost poetic. In (the much missed) John Lever they had an unorthodox, powerhouse of a drummer and in guitar duo Dave Fielding and Reg Smithies they possessed an almost telepathically attuned lead/rhythm axis that, to my mind, has never quite been surpassed since.

All four men were vital cogs in this particular machine.

I could write an essay on the bands bad luck and the vagaries of the music industry. Suffice to say, their musical output was peerless. Neither New Order nor The Smiths nailed down an album quite so spectacularly as The Chameleons, who themselves managed three in a row. Script Of The Bridge was the first of these.

In the eyes of many of their fans, it remains their best.

The Album.

Script Of The Bridge is an immaculate debut. Its 57 mins run time it was longer than many records of its time yet every song justifies its inclusion. It is also a perfectly crafted sequence of tracks, beginning with power and ending in beautiful reverie. Whilst opening track ‘Don’t Fall’ flirts fleetingly with Goth it remains anthemic enough to stand out from that somewhat limited scene. However, the rest of Script… reveals a far wider musical pallet. Throughout its journey, Script… delivers any number of epic tracks including the bands most famous song, ‘Second Skin’. ‘Second Skin’ was never a single but it remains a cinematic piece of music that moves through its phases in an almost progressive manner. Gig-goers would ‘lose it’ habitually to this ever-present song.

The normalisation of violence is explored passionately on the muscular ‘A Person Isn’t Safe Anywhere These Days’. (those long titles becoming something of a Chams trademark) Yet adjacent to all of this power lay both restraint and intricacy. The Chameleons ability to slow things down and let a song breathe owed more to pre-punk than post-punk and certainly punk rock itself. One imagines the likes of King Crimson and Pink Floyd, certainly Bowie were every bit the inspiration as a Lydon or Devoto.

Looking back, Script Of The Bridge hasn’t aged a jot. That’s partly down to its timeless qualities and a lot due to its enduring influence. We see the seeds of the prototype dreampop movement on tracks such as ‘View From A Hill’. This, remember, at a moment in time when Cocteau Twins were still shaking off Banshee comparisons. A more meaningful comparison might be Big Country’s impassioned debut The Crossing, again with souring, heartfelt lyrics and duelling guitars. You can hear the legacy of Script… in work such as Interpols Turn On The Bright Lights, Editors Back Room, early White Lies, Puressence, House of Love, Kitchens Of Distinction and Black Swan Lane, the latter actually being affiliated to The Chameleons. Oasis were fans. Indeed, everyone who discovered them became big fans. You just needed to know.

The Re-issue.

40 years since its original release, Blue Apple are marking the occasion with this two (coloured) disc, heavy vinyl re-issue. Script of the Bridge was restored and re-mastered for vinyl at Abbey Road Studios, London. The restoration project was undertaken by production team Guy Massey and Steve Rooke, who received a Grammy Award for their work on The Beatles Box Set. Inner sleeve notes plus reworked cover art from guitarist Reg Smithies complete the package. It’s a no-brainer if you don’t have it and high on the wish list if you do. A better record will not be released this year.

Buy the album.