Wobegone is the third solo album by former Chumbawamba member Danbert Nobacon. Chumbawamba were (indeed still are, in their current acoustic incarnation) unique in UK popular music in combining a radical anarchist analysis and action with a creative trajectory that showed the same integrity as their politics.
Never afraid to experiment, their music was, at times, hit-and-miss but some of it was astonishingly, ecstatically good – all the more impressive when you think of the band’s origins in early ’80s post-punk Britain when they could barely play a note.
Having moved to the USA, Nobacon is now pursuing various projects including writing novels, doing radio shows and making music. The American influence is clear in Woebegone, a sort of episodic musical novel set in the not-so-distant future where the world is in terminal decline. The music is rollicking, raucous folk reminiscent of a collision between gypsy punk and American country. Nobacon sings with a strained, raspy, abrasive voice, an approach that he used more selectively on his previous, and for me more accessible, album The Library Book of the World (Bloodshot Records 2007).
Artists and performers who share our vision of a better world and the importance of deeds not words are scarce in these dumbed-down, politically-bankrupt times. Danbert has a quirky and surreal vision, at times challenging and obscure, but he’s still a human firework in terms of the passion and energy he exudes in his work. I remember listening to him perform in a field on the eve of the 2005 G8 protests in Scotland and feeling some of that fire burn in my belly. Listen to Woebegone and I think you’ll feel it too.