MOSSLEY – you pronounce it Mozzley, chaps, hard S – is a small milltown up in the hills north west of Manchester, where the soil gets thin, the rushes spring through the steep meadows; where Manchester as a greater conurbation gives up its last and prepares for the bleak moors of Yorkshire ahead.
It’s also home to the blood-red surge of Cabbage, the post-punk outfit who charged atcha clutching guitars and lyrical polemic on 2018’s Nihilistic Glamour Shots, twin frontmen Lee Broadbent and Joe Martin riding out ahead with a snarl; not that you’d especially wanna mess with the energy and passion delivered by guitarist Eoghan Clifford, bassist Patrick Neville and drummer Asa Morley either.
Like the rest of us, hell, 2020 hasn’t been brilliantly kind to Cabbage; they put out the first taster from the new album, Amanita Pantherina, the single “You’ve Made An Artform (From Falling To Pieces)” in March; I mean, that was a different world even, wasn’t it? Sweet March. For those first couple of days, it was there, it was on the news, but we could still do what the hell we wanted and it wasn’t gonna kill ya. Did someone not beware the ides, or something?
Inspired, reportedly, by that grand old dame of British television Coronation Street, “You’ve Made An Artform (From Falling To Pieces)” makes an appearance as track 2 on the new ‘un; and it’s a bold, chest-thrusting punk-pop cracker, with little touches of classic Joe Strummer, maybe even Jimmy Pursey, in those chantalong moments.
Joe Martin says of this finely-honed piece of guitar artillery: “The chorus line actually originated in a Coronation Street script in 1988, with Deirdre remarking to Ken: ‘I wonder what advanced state of dither we’ll find you in today, Ken, you make an art form from falling to pieces’.
“We don’t mind sharing our complete love and adoration for those old, hilariously crafted dialogues.”
The summer, necessarily, was quiet as a church mouse for them, when they should’ve been out there seducing us. Can you remember your last gig, the queue for a pint, the queue for merch … what would you give now to be sweaty with beer-flecked jeans and whinge about having to queue for merch?
But Cabbage came firing back at us with “Get Outta My Brain” at the beginning of August. It was a whole other beast, the lost spirit of Shaun William Ryder seemingly in the saddle of its hallucinatory, intoxicating funk, fuzz bass and lyrics fading in and phasing out in a compulsive, nocturnal, psychedelic storm.
It was Lee Broadbent who took up the task of burrowing down into the signifiers of this one: “The title has two meanings: it’s about the balance of how the two meanings constantly fight each other – some people just want to run away and some people intoxicate themselves to run away.
“It’s an attempt to channel the spirit of Manchester and is purposely amped to become a choice cut when we get out to do it live.”
Can’t you see the punters careening back over the front row now, mid-crowdsurf? Gonna be a stormer, this one.
But two singles do not a rona-wrecked summer make; can the boys sweep down from the hills, take all and sundry?
Simply put; yep] yep they pretty much can, and with ease. Proceedings open with the wonk-riffing pounder “Leon The Pig Farmer”, and you know they’ve sunk their teeth deep. Vocally it’s sort of in that very late twenty-teens declamatory thang, as also espoused by Fontaines, Squid, the much-missed Duds, yada; but what gives it the edge is a real note of Jello Biafra, wild-eyed, sweaty-locked, don’t-give-a-fuckness. It makes a real statement of what they want. The all of you. That’s what.
The brace of singles snarl and trip out in sequence then, second and third, dropping you on the shores of non-Brexit call to non-arms “Raus!”, which beats in on a staccato riff of absolute filth, a blitz of barking guitar and properly stage-owning lyrical diktat. Ka-pow. “Once Upon A Time In The North” comes on like Idles appraised of a sweet pop hook – just sweet enough to pull you deeper into the roar.
And … breathe. “Hatred” steps back into the acoustic, laments in a mellower (remember: all things are relative) way, sprinkled with some pretty nifty slide guitar and riff twang. It has a slow-burn, elegaic glam feel, that vocal melody-matching riff coming on very Mick Ronson.
“Medicine” is a Mancunian swamp rocker … “I know the nature of evil it is in you / I know that look in your eyes …,” the clarion call. It approaches goth – nope, hear me out: goth 82/83 vintage. The Bomb Party. Killing Joke. Power, crisp anger. Not flouncy skirts in graveyards clutching Shelley. Acquaintance with the dark side and its potency. “I Was A Teenage Insect” manages an almost Joe Meek spacepop chorus and inserts it hard into breathless punk with this Cramps sense of psychic disturbance buried in its very bones.
“Direct-Dictate” lofts on a dirty garage punk riff, primitive; witness the sour acid tones of that lead break. It’s got mystery and a sense of being heard over the radio in a car late at night on the motorway as you fade into that red-eyed, post-2am, mental state.
“Piles Of Smiles” is a proper nasty, scouring, two-hander; that bass gigantic, the vocals deep in a threat of reverb, almost cartoonish menace, a la Mike Patton in the scifi quirk-metal of Fantômas.
We close out on the aptly titled, world-weary “Terminates Here”: it has atmospheres of other Mancunian bands of the past; the sort of chordal prettiness which seems a birthright in that part of Lancashire. Spacey swoops and dubby textures keep that trippiness flowing through a regretful and reflective lyrical evocation. It swings with an almost Specials kind of bleak distaste at the world, darkly romantic, primal; and we’re gone.
Quite a thing, Cabbage, aren’t they, really? They could easily ply a straight line for your punk glands. But there’s a lot more artistry here. They take in all kinds of strands of garage, performance poetry, funk, dub, psych, while never departing from the main thrust of giving you a damn hard, damn loud shake of the senses, a pump of the adrenaline, an appeal for sharper awareness of the world, all dressed in fire and punch. Thank the good lord for bands like Cabbage.
To place an order for Amanita Pantherina, which is out this Friday, September 25th, on CD and splatter vinyl, pop yourself over to their website; or you can visit any of the fine record emporia near you. Record shops are great.