Hailing from Stevenage, a neglected satellite town around 30 miles north of London that keeps voting Conservative despite an ever-growing list of reasons not to, Bad Breeding have, since their formation in 2013, developed a reputation for themselves as one of the UK’s angriest, most uncompromising punk rock bands. Less than a year after their debut, ‘S/T’ (2016), they knocked out ‘Divide’ (2017). They then went on to outdo the quality of both records with their excellent third album, ‘Exiled’ (2019), although they struggled to recreate the ferocity of that LP’s songs in a live environment. ‘Human Capital’ is their loudest, hardest, least subtle, angriest album yet. The album’s press release makes it clear that these aspects of its sound and thematic concerns have been influenced by the increasingly parlous, divisive, and toxic state of UK politics.
Songs like ‘Community’, ‘Joyride’, and ‘Prescription’ are representative of what is to follow: hard smashing of drums from Ashlea Bennett, pounding bass-playing from Charlie Rose, and treble-heavy guitar work from Angus Gannagé, with vocalist Chris Dodd screaming angry broadsides about the failings of individualist neoliberalism and the need for community-minded solidarity over the top of the racket. Gannagé’s guitars take on a more melodic hue on the album’s noticeably slower title track before the band ratchet the pace up to 11 around two-and-a-half minutes in. This slower pace continues intermittently throughout the second side of ‘Human Capital’ on songs like ‘Speculation’ and ‘Rebuilding’. However, just because these songs are slower than what’s preceded them, doesn’t mean they’re any less brutal. They feature some of the angriest vocals Dodd has committed to record, his voice barking so caustically that the songs are almost slightly painful to listen to.
‘Human Capital’ is Bad Breeding’s best album to date. Uniform guitarist Ben Greenberg does a great job as producer, as he did on ‘Exiled’. The band’s playing and songwriting abilities have clearly advanced in leaps and bounds since that album was released, and hopefully this will be reflected in the shows they play to promote this record. As this review is being written, we are witnessing the collapse of the UK government. The essay by Jake Farrell that accompanies this album’s press release eloquently expounds a positive vision for a more community-centric society that consequently could replace the enterprise-oriented, corrupt, oligarchical one the UK has become. If that transformation happens, then ‘Human Capital’ will make a very fitting soundtrack. The album is released on July 8th via One Little Independent. Order it here.