A small history of a small Finnish rock group, revered by the few and rejected by the many, here's your starter/sampler for a proposition that is no more, that remains in myth alone.
'Rumours On The Rebound' is four sides of four records. It spans Wigwam's two Virgin albums, 'Nuclear Nightclub' (1975) and 'Lucky Golden Stripes and Starpose' (1976), their last on Love Records, 'Dark Album' (1977), and figurehead Jim Pembroke's solo 'Corporal Cauliflower's Mental Function' (1977); it also includes one song that hasn't been released before. The lineup is mainly a foursome, a traditional piano, guitars, bass, drums affair: Jim Pembroke, Pekka Rechardt, Mans Groundstroem and Ronnie Osterberg respectively.
Wigwam's 'cult' reputation built up over a longer series of releases than those covered on 'Rumours On The Rebound', and their historical roots are appropriately reflected. Wigwam was born in that lacuna between the late 1960s and mid 1970s, and fans will probably remember them most fondly as one of the brave few rock outfits to fill the fallow, shallow pre-1976 years with something more than cultural water treading. The Wigwam text had as many local neighbours as you care to mention - Traffic, Matching Mole, Band, Beatles - and it seemed a mature catholicism that could never really come to terms with the position of its practice as the decade rolled ever onward. Most of the neighbours wound down similarly broken up.
Even at their most 'commercial' Wigwam obstinately resisted the obvious routes to acceptance and anything more than marginal alliance. 'Rumours On The Rebound' is Wigwam - and lyricist Pembroke - at their purest, comfortably but never easily sited, lacking the more factitious 'cynicism' of such too easily cited peers as Steely Dan and Frank Zappa. The compilation - by our own Mr MacKinnon - blends through the Wigwam story, constructively off-and-on setting all their different aspects.
Pembroke's veiled, metaphoric love songs room well with the more explicitly international theme dances. 'The Big Farewell' - nothing like a Long Goodbye, incidentally - is typical of the former, and 'International Disaster' of the latter: interchangeable moods and realism.
'Rumours On The Rebound' shows Wigwam in a penumbra, definitely decided between the lengths of earlier improvisation and the craft of song-writing; within traditional formats Wigwam works well, acid enough to test out where others copped. Songs like 'Freddie Are you Ready', 'Nuclear Nightclub' and 'Horace's Aborted Rip Off Scheme' contrast against the sour and tense senses of 'Eddie And The Boys', 'The Item Is The Totem' and 'Lucky Golden Stripes and Starpose'.
'The Item Is The Totem' - a line from which givest the compilation its title - is perhaps the harshest thing here, and is written not by Pembroke, but by Mats Hulden. Too subjective to say it's the 'best' track, but it certainly has good claims to being the most successful meeting of old and (relatively) new Wigwam: "This winter it's the split-eyed look/And in the squint of spring/The vogue will be/For chic polarization/Kids spending their allowance on next season's thing.../ Item equals totem/Claims researcher." Structural analysis of fashion, and a good (good) guitar solo!
But let's not start to itemize. 'Rumours On The Rebound' is Wigwam's obituary, should you want it. If there's one thing they didn't die from it was overkill, and this calm collection sees things kept naturally in their place.
Wigwam never were or ever will be icon or iconoclast - their influence and importance was interesting enough to merit attention, albeit on the rebound.
The most ironic thing results from an abbreviation of the album's title. Anyone for posthumous double platinum???