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During the Chameleons' early career, the British music press often used terms such as "sonic architects" and "sonic cathedrals" when describing the band, due to their atmospheric sound. Smithies and Fielding provided shimmering guitar riffs, while Lever and Burgess on drums and bass, respectively, gave the band a solid, rhythmic foundation.

The Chameleons emerged as Thatcherism was beginning to have its effect on England's former industrial towns, and their music was imbued with a sense of anxiety and a longing for the security of innocence. Burgess's impassioned vocal delivery complemented his lyrics, which touched on the alienation created in many British communities by the decline of manufacturing and industry, and the consequent disruption of social order. Despite the bleak landscapes they were surrounded by, the band were not weighed down by their environment, but attempted to triumph over it. Burgess said in 2013 that, though growing up in a post-industrial, northern town must have some influence on one's music, he felt the Chameleons would have sounded similar regardless of where they originated from The Chameleons have inspired the likes of Oasis, the Verve, the Flaming Lips and Interpol. Oasis's songwriter Noel Gallagher has expressed his liking for the album Strange Times saying, "It must have influenced my early years as a song writer because I can hear me in it everywhere!". Guitarist Nick McCabe of the Verve named Script Of The Bridge as one of his ten favorite albums. The Flaming Lips included "Up the Down Escalator" in the track listing of a CD compilation they did for Late Night Tales.[35] The band have also been cited by the Charlatans's singer Tim Burgess.[36] Moby has been quoted expressing admiration for their work. Interpol's frontman Paul Banks has said that their bassist Carlos [Dengler] was "a fan" of the band. Sweet Trip vocalist Valerie Cooper listed Script of the Bridge as a musical influence.

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