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Indie/Indie Rock New Wave Why We Love

Why We Love: Working Men’s Club

If you’re currently missing proper, atmosphere-filled nights out (and let’s be honest, who isn’t given the current state of the world?) then fear not as I’ve found the perfect antidote and their name is Working Men’s Club.

I recently read The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club by Peter Hook and thanks to the part-owner/bassists amusing accounts and vivid imagery, craved nothing more than to experience the iconic venue back in the day. However, I reluctantly came to terms with the fact that that was never going to happen and so decided to seek out the next best thing- some top acid tunes. 

I listened to everything that I could find from the time but having grown up in the home of the club it was all quite familiar so didn’t fully satisfy this newfound buzz; I needed something fresh and exciting that still contained the original heart. This was harder to come across than I’d first anticipated but finally had a Hallelujah moment at the beginning of this month when Working Men’s Club released their self-titled debut album and answered all of my prayers.

I was hooked (pardon the pun) from the second that opening track Valley’s first kicked off but at the 1.50 mark (0.30 in the video should check out below) something really special happened when the pounding bass cuts for a synth riff just before the lyrics kick in. In that moment I felt the closest that I believe I ever will to first experiencing the height of the movement back in the 90s and from then on I was in a trance for the rest of the record; treated to further squelching acid infusions as well as many more musical delights…

Falling Somewhere between the two bands that helped to fund the legendary ‘Hac’, Working Men’s Club clearly have a post-punk edge (just give Cook a Coffee a listen) but despite having a natural ability for creating this sound they didn’t play it easy and simply follow the classic Joy Division route; instead incorporating synth and electro to give things a New Order-esque spin. 

It would be a crime to only liken these guys to other bands though (no matter how great) as they seem to be exploring everything on the spectrum in between and actually credit the Detroit house scene as major influences. The result is their own new sound that can leave you charged and ready to dance one minute then lost and daydreaming the next.

Encapsulating the sounds that I grew up with but bringing something from my generation into the mix, I felt a kindred spirit in the band. There was something in the name and listening to their first few tracks that gave me the feeling that they were fellow Northerners (and once I saw that their third was titled John Cooper Clarke I had absolutely no doubt about it). I figured that this might have also contributed to that close connection because despite being from Yorkshire rather the home of the punk-poet and FAC51, things growing up in Todmorden feel just as small and grey (but equally hopeful). 

Like all great bands from the North, you can really hear this in their sound; the bleakness and claustrophobia in lead singer Sydney Minsky-Sargeant’s lyrics; being ‘trapped inside a town’ ‘running out of time’ but also the sense of working pride and excitement that there’s something beyond, in the sounds that they’re backed by. 

Minsky-Sergeant is now the only original band member left standing but at the fresh age of just 19, commanding you to watch him in his SOCIALISM print t-shirt he’s definitely not backing down any time soon. Originally joined by guitarist Giulia Bonometti and drummer Jake Bogacki the first line-up released debut single Bad Blood in 2019 which gained comparisons to the Totally Wired band The Fall and flows into B-Side Suburban Heights, a song filled with a jangly Smith’s-like sound. The tracks were greeted with great acclaim but success didn’t mean that Syd was ready to settle and he eagerly continued to explore and develop.

The fired-up front-man gravitated towards a new electronic noise however, this wasn’t for everyone and led to the departure of Bogacki, whilst Bonometti also moved on to focus on a solo career rather than the evolution of WMC. This, in turn, forced him to change things up even more than anticipated; sequentially swapping out the drum kit for a machine and expanding the club’s membership to three new musicians in the form of bassist Liam Ogburn, Mairead O’Connor on keys, guitar and vocals and Rob Graham joining Syd on guitar and synth.

Together they took on this new angle drawing them in; each member boldly bringing their own flourish and when combined with production from Ross Orton- the same Yorkshireman behind tracks from the Arctic Monkeys (and rather ironically The Fall), bedroom-recorded demos were transformed into a well-polished LP.

Wise beyond their years, you can already hear that the band know what music they want to make and have a great skill for executing it. The tracks on their album come together to create a cohesive experience but each is individually fresh with a mix of elements.

There’s the Stand out Acid House infusion on the likes of Tomorrow and plenty of upbeat rhythm in White Rooms and People. In addition to this optimistic sound, you’ll also find balance in a darker side; where they channel the grit that’s sung about on Teeth in its grunge guitar and evoke doom in the striking beats of Be My Guest

Also incorporated is a touch of afrobeat, funk and even indie on Outside where they sing about reminiscing in the sunshine, delivering lyrics about a ‘technicolour daydream’ whilst hardly needing any words at all on the pulsating A.A.A.A…That isn’t all either, as just when you think they’ve proven their capability they top things off with Angel, a 12-minute journey filled with swooping psychedelic sounds that creates a deservingly epic finale.

Speaking the honest truth and producing music that’s simultaneously nostalgic and now, they’re only one album in and hard not to love. Although they might have captured the sound of the North and named themselves after the places they originally strived to play in, Working Men’s Club look well and truly set to take on the wider world.

Check out Working Men’s Club on Spotify

Categories
Punk/Rock Reviews

Review: IDLES – Ultra Mono

Direct, divisive and darkly humorous, if you’re looking for an album that packs all of these qualities as well as a major punch then look no further than Ultra Mono, the third studio album from Bristol rockers IDLES.

Since receiving critical acclaim upon the release of their aptly named debut album ‘Brutalism’ in 2017 the band have consistently stayed true to themselves in speaking the truth- no matter how harsh. Frontman Joe Talbot refuses to be defined by genre and continually denies claims that they fit under the ‘punk’ umbrella despite comparisons to likes of Shame and even Fontaines D.C. a band at the current forefront of the genre. One thing there’s no denying though is that they’ve truly developed their own distinct sound. A belligerent beat creates a mechanical feel that ticks along at the heart of their music; more so on this album than ever before, helping to seamlessly transition between tracks and allow Talbot to fire off his often frenzied but equally thoughtful lyrics.

Blunt political statements are a prominent driving force behind both their music and in recruiting steady support from many however, the same proclamations also result in severance from others who feel they’re too judgemental. They recognise the irony in these opinions though and in no way care that it repels, continuing to speak their mind and confronting any hate in witty lyrics with examples including “there’s nothing brave and nothing useful, you scrawling your aggro shit on the walls of the cubicle” dominating second track ‘Grounds’. There’s no shying away from other charged topics either with passion filled songs on the likes of white privilege, toxic masculinity and feminism; even bringing onboard Savages Jehnny Beth to practice what they preach by featuring some defiant female vocals on ‘Ne Touché Pas Moi’ further driving home their beliefs of equality.

Ultra Mono encapsulates a feeling of doom simmering inside most listeners given the current climate. A sense of terror looms throughout but unlike many that internalise this, they break through the surface to address the sense of urgency and need for action by exploding in exciting anger with raging riffs and aggressive vocals. This, combined with the military coherence created by their rhythm section leaves you steadily riled up throughout the record, resulting in a sense of unity against the common enemy, building the “strength in numbers” referenced again in Grounds. There’s plenty more to the record than anger though; from the surprisingly tender ‘A Hymn’- a melancholic vessel for channeling their emotions and delivering opinions in a softer way, to the comically propelled Model Village, with a sinister undertone that that feels so familiar you can’t help but laugh. All tracks combined, you’re left submerged in an oppressive atmosphere, ready and raring to escape the constraints of the everyday and confront whatever darkness is on the horizon.

The main concern on the run-up to this third release was that the band wouldn’t channel the boldness they exude in their songs when it comes to exploring new grounds (no pun intended). To a certain point, this worry has been addressed as the band worked with producer Kenny Beats, infusing a touch of his hip hop background right into the record’s veins and also collaborated with jazz-pop pianist Jamie Cullum on ‘Kill Them With Kindness’ for a further twist. Despite this, they don’t venture too far from previous material but it’s clear to see that they’ve sustained a real direction and are more focused on upholding their own belief in what they should be, delivering something for existing fans rather than pleasing everyone and converting anyone that opposes.

As a whole, Ultra Mono is a strong follow up to their previous Mercury Prize nominated album ‘Joy as an Act of Resistance’ that couldn’t have come at a more apt time. The driving feeling evoked in their tunes looks set to continue, helping to thrust them forward and prove that when it comes to speaking up about what they believe in, Idles wont be staying idle.

Listen to Ultra Mono on Spotify now.