Still Got Legs by Chameleon Circuit
Few artists can claim to have created a new genre of music, but Chameleon Circuit, who coined the term trock (time lord rock) and created a new niche in the world of pop-culture-themed music, has done just that. The British band makes music about the long-running cult sci-fi series “Doctor Who” that chronicles the adventures of the time-traveling alien Time Lord known as the Doctor. The band’s self-titled first CD was full of fantastic tunes, so their new album, “Still Got Legs,” has a tough act to follow.
While the first album leapt merrily around the series’ almost 50-year-long past, “Still Got Legs” focuses mainly on the most recent run of the series, which features Matt Smith in the title role, his new friends Amy Pond and Rory Williams, and the enigmatic River Song. In addition, a few songs focus on the epic swan song of Smith’s predecessor, David Tennant.
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Though the songs are about “Doctor Who,” they can be enjoyed by anyone, even if they haven’t seen a single episode. In fact, I was introduced to the band by a friend who couldn’t stand the show.
The CD comes in a clever case, showing the images on the door of the time machine TARDIS altered to include the names of the album and tracks. It comes with a poster of the band members and the song lyrics on the back. The fine packaging is a nice touch, but the best part is the music itself.
While the first album was made up of catchy history lessons from the show’s original run and clever episode summaries, “Still Got Legs” often turns scenes into songs. The Master’s surprisingly touching “death” scene becomes the sinister yet sad “The Sound of Drums.” The Doctor’s words to a sleeping Amy before he is temporarily wiped from existence become the understated “Silence and the End of All Things.” Rory’s confrontation with the Doctor becomes “Mr. Pond,” and an important episode ending is lyrically recreated with “Everything Is Ending.” Oddly enough, it’s easy to imagine the characters singing these tunes since they capture the essence of the scenes so well.
The entire album runs together with themes transitioning from one song to the next, similar to the plot arcs that have been an integral part of the series. The album opens with a brief instrumental piece titled “The Subwave Signal,” then transitions into “Regenerate Me,” sung over a synthesized version of the theme song. In fact, various pieces of the “Doctor Who” score appear throughout the album, including a rocked-up version of the eleventh doctor’s theme, titled “Eleven.” “Regenerate Me” is one of several tracks that introduce the show’s hero, along with the folksy “Traveling Man” and “Teenage Rebel,” a rock n’ roll anthem befitting Smith.
Episode summaries are also included. “Big Bang Two” follows the proud tradition of taking puzzling episodes and transforming them into even more confusing songs. Meanwhile, “Kiss the Girl” tells the plot of “The Lodger” from the point of view of guest character Craig, and features a chorus you’ll want to sing along to.
While most of the songs from the first album were upbeat and cheery, many on “Still Got Legs” take a darker turn. David Tennant’s final story line, “The End of Time,” is suitably covered, beginning with the haunting track “Nightmares,” the brief-but-memorable “Knock Four Times,” and musically exploding with “The Doctor Is Dying.” The song flawlessly captures the episode’s epic feel.
This album proves that just like the Doctor, Chameleon Circuit has still got legs.