If you look up the word “Underrated” in the dictionary, you’ll find this band.
Formed in Manchester in 1999, Working For A Nuclear Free City was an alternative, nu-gaze, boundary-pushing band that undoubtedly inspired and paved the way for countless bands and artists. With a career that spans just under two decades, the style and sound of their music were constantly evolving and redefining genres, resulting in an eclectic, inspiring, and impressive discography.
The band’s self-titled debut album was released in 2006 and quickly gained acclaim from a number of major media outlets, with the BBC stating: “it’s the way that [WFANFC and The Longcut, another British music group] have distilled Manchester’s history into an exciting future brew that makes them important.”
Clocking in at just under forty minutes, the album plays like a hazy yet intense dream. One minute you’re floating through melancholic tones with tracks such as “The 224th Day” and “Pixelated Birds,” only to then be slapped in the face with fuzzed up bass riffs and striking drum beats on tracks like “Troubled Son” and “Dead Fingers Talking.” The overall sound is experimental and innovative with a carefully crafted mix of pulsing synths, punchy percussion, infectious gleaming guitar riffs, and distorted swirling vocals that all culminate in a compelling explosion of varying styles and genres (which can be said for their entire discography).
Album two, 2008’s Businessmen & Ghosts is just as striking, if not more. Featuring a re-release of a handful of the songs from the self-titled debut, this album’s duration is almost three times the length of the previous record – a staggering one hour and forty-four minutes long. However, with a sound of this calibre, even this almost two-hour listen will leave you wanting more.
The first new song on the album, “Rocket,” is a melodic, acoustic-driven, upbeat groove with atmospheric harmonic vocals that not only haunts your subconscious until you find yourself humming the tune days later, but also lets you know that this album is probably going to steer away from the previous sonic palette.
Further indication of this is “Sarah Dreams of Summer.” Maybe hinted at through the name, this is a breezy and carefree sounding tune with warm guitars and organs that sit cleanly around layered vocal harmonies reminiscent of Brian Wilson’s arrangements for The Beach Boys.
Fast-forwarding through the album, heavier tracks like “All American Taste” and “Eighty Eight” with their catchy bass riffs, phased vocals, and forefront vintage-tinged drum beats, sound like the love-child of Tame Impala’s Innerspeaker and My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, the latter of whom is cited as an influence of the bands. Other influences include artists like Primal Scream, Yo La Tengo, Devo, Bill Evans, and Yes. If you weren’t already curious enough to go and immediately jump into their music, I would hope that the combination of these names was the final push you needed.
Much like the growth between the two albums mentioned above, the sound of Working For A Nuclear Free Town’s music only expands over the course of the later (and unfortunately final) records, solidifying them as one of the most creative, defining, and timeless bands of the 2000s – and one that, rightfully so, should be a treasured part of your record collection or streaming playlists.
With the multitude of genres, labels, and categories that exist within the music industry, having a commonly identifiable sound is probably the safest way to go, especially for the sake of being commercially viable. Although, sometimes that can take away from the music, as well as the feeling it evokes. Whilst it might be difficult to pinpoint the exact style of Working For A Nuclear Free Town’s music, what is clear, however, is that this is the sound of a band who was never afraid to take risks, regardless of the cost or outcome – and that should always be celebrated.