WORKING MEN’S CLUB’S self-titled debut can be counted as one of the better UK releases of 2020, youthful zeal and hard-hitting beats redeeming the occasionally gimmicky lyrical and musical content.
The album draws on an eclectic range of influences, from dance-rock and acid house to funk and techno, the constant mixing and rearranging of which results in the album never becoming dull even if, after listening, you may say they haven’t done anything particularly innovative.
Working Men’s Club opens strongly with “Valleys”: an ode to frontman Syd Minsky’s home in the Calder Valley of Yorkshire, a region with which he evidently has a love-hate relationship. The instruments are introduced individually: drums, bass, Italian-house piano, siren synth lead, creating an invigorating tension eventually released by a memorable synth break. Minsky’s vocals then follow, his opening statement: “Trapped, inside a town, inside my mind / Stuck with no ideas, I’m running out of time,” convincingly portrays the claustrophobia of a small-town adolescence which, if not intensely relatable to the listener, will be captivating due to the sheer vigour with which it is delivered. The track pounds to a finish amongst splashing hi-hats and undulating arpeggiators, an excellent introduction to the group’s sound and ethos.
“A.A.A.A” follows, industrial percussion and a filthy bassline conjuring up images of the dilapidated warehouses that permeate Manchester’s cityscape, in one of which Working Men’s Club livestreamed a performance on the night of their album’s release. However, this fetishization of Manchester’s musical heritage, acid-house, illegal raves, pills n’ thrills, feels somewhat hypocritical given Syd Minsky’s claims that “Manchester is stuck in the past”.
Working Men’s Club’s historical tour of Northern England’s cultural property continues with “John Cooper-Clarke”, which nevertheless boasts a catchy, spaghetti western guitar riff that seamlessly plays call and response with lush synthesizer chords over a funky bassline; meanwhile, “White Rooms And People” pits Talking Heads-style post-punk up against a soaring synth chorus to great effect; it’s the high point of the opening section of the record.
Unfortunately, at this point The Great Northern Railway begins to run out of steam, the HS2 dream dies in a cloud of austerity, Morrissey outs himself as a far-right goblin. In short: the album becomes less consistently excellent. “Outside” feels sluggish, a lower-tempo song relative to the album’s openers, and the lyrical content of “Tomorrow” comes off as slightly cheesy, despite the banger of a chorus. The IDLES-esque rhyming couplets of “See those cowboys every day / They turn to us and we look away,” and “You love sorrow / I hate tomorrows” really don’t do justice to the fun, bouncy instrumental component: a crying shame.
Sandwiched between them, however, sits ‘Be My Guest”: an electro-rock stomper that utilises a contrast between noise-filled verses and washing choruses to entrance the listener into its soundscape. To the credit of the band, the peaks of the album are much more memorable than the troughs and come at highly convenient moments that tone down the misfires.
Finishing off the album is breakout single “Teeth”, a worthy piece of techno-rock with a ravishing vocal performance; and “Angel”, an outlier in the album not only due to its length – more than 12 minutes – but also in the fact that it relies more on an early Working Men’s Club, guitar-led, post-punk sound. Tonally this feels bizarre; however, as it implodes into a psychedelic, shoegaze-reminiscent racing car of a song, you can’t help but be pulled along by the immense energy it releases; a final example of how adolescent arrogance and passion triumphs over musical nuance any day of the week.
Working Men’s Club is an album by a band who have not, perhaps, carved out their own niche, but who get by on spirit and exuberance, the results of which are rallying and very exciting.
Working Men’s Club’s debut album is out now on Heavenly Recordings on digital download, CD, and neon vinyl; purchase your copy from the Heavenly store, here, or from your local record emporium.