Poor Chumbawamba. An anarchist collective with enough of a claim to importance to have recorded an album with Noam Chomsky, it met a terrible and twisted fate: an inescapably infectious hit single, 1997's "Tubthumping." The experience must have been fascinating for the Leeds-based group, which got to invade and confuse mainstream pop culture with silly controversies while no doubt gaining perspective on its enemies, but it also likely ruined Chumbawamba's chances of ever truly being taken seriously by the vast majority of its listeners. For starters, many assume the major-label band is filthy rich and therefore a bunch of hypocrites, while others have already tossed it into the fad-filled dustbin alongside the likes of Right Said Fred and EMF. For a band with a legitimate track record of confrontational rabble-rousing—its run-ins with officials in Thatcher's England are the stuff of legend, and it had the audacity to follow the Live Aid concert with an album titled Pictures Of Starving Children Sell Records—WYSIWYG is underwhelming enough to justify that dismissal. Arriving with little fanfare, the album has all the trappings of a career-ending follow-up flop, from its ugly, cheap-looking packaging to its failure to produce an apparent stand-out single, to its tiresome series of facile observations about such pop-cultural dead horses as Jerry Springer and Rush Limbaugh. WYSIWYG is so stiff and predictable, it almost justifies Chumbawamba's tragic and ironic legacy as a fiercely political band best known for a single that will forever emanate from the sound systems of sports arenas and humorous novelty boxing-gorilla dolls.

Advertisement