STRANGE TIMES includes Peel Session tracks recorded for the BBC.
The Chameleons UK: Birdy (vocals, bass); Dave (guitar, strings); Reg (guitar); John (drums, percussion).
Personnel: Mark Burgess (vocals); Dave Fielding (guitar, strings); Reg Smithies (guitar); John Lever (drums, percussion).
Illustrator: Reg Smithies.
As the Chameleons' most fully realized album, STRANGE TIMES deftly combines the urgency of SCRIPT OF THE BRIDGE with the atmosphere of WHAT DOES ANYTHING MEAN? BASICALLY. Beginning with the aggressive, riff-heavy "Mad Jack," this 1986 record careens through a wide range of moods, evoking sadness (the spare, poignant "Tears"), existential malaise (the mini-epic "Souls in Isolation"), and pleasant nostalgia (the upbeat ode to youth "Childhood").
Most notably, STRANGE TIMES includes the U.K. post-punk band's signature tune, "Swamp Thing," which fascinatingly unwinds from dark, synth-laden lines into a majestic anthem gilded by the shimmering guitar work of Reg Smithies and Dave Fielding. The ensemble, rounded out by vocalist/bassist Mark "Birdy" Burgess and drummer John Lever, was in complete synch here and seemingly poised for a commercial breakthrough, making its sudden dissolution (following the death of their beloved manager, Tony Fletcher) even more unfortunate. Although the Chameleons would reunite in the new millennium, nothing would top this outstanding album, which stands as one of the great overlooked records of mid-'80s British rock. (Note: Most versions of STRANGE TIMES feature five bonus tracks, including an excellent cover of the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows.")