FRESHLY pressed and starched, collars buttoned just so, Home Counties are back pursuing an ever more addictive, spasming line in capitalist critique encapsulated in wiry, fractured punk-funk. It’s like The Fire Engines were back among us, and hell we needed this.
“White Shirt / Clean Shirt” continues their Beckettian lyrical railing against the rat race, hanging that grinding axe this time around on the crisp cotton you’re gonna wear to the office and receive whispered, micro-aggressing analysis of throughout your nine-fiving week.
Although perhaps not as lyrically discursive as previous whacked drops such as January’s “Modern Yuppies” – which does feature the clickety-clack of what’s for me pretty much lyric of the year in “Squash racket made to match the jacket that costs the month’s wages of the lower tax brackets” – or the quivering wire of last year’s “Dad Bod”, sometimes economy is all, when dressed up with funk-wrong this itchy and insistent.
The call-and-response chorus tells the tale of that PC-interfacing passive aggression: “Is it white enough? Is it clean enough? (Is it? Ha! Is it? Ha!) / Is it creased too much? Do you talk too much? (Is it? Ha! Is it?).” I certainly worked there; did you? The kinda office where you bought the frickin’ cake on your birthday.
Singer Will Harrison says: “‘White Shirt / Clean Shirt’ began life as a guitar-orientated number that was a staple of our live set at our first shows, but then we sort of fell out of love with it.
“Through lockdown, as we started experimenting more heavily with synthesisers and drum machines; we reworked the song with these new influences and it found a new lease of life.
“The two singles are linked lyrically, both looking at working life under contemporary capitalism. ‘Modern Yuppies’ was written about the destructive mentality of middle-class professionals – constantly wanting more success, more money and more consumer goods. ’White Shirt / Clean Shirt’ looks at the less aspirational, and more universal reality of office work.
“It voices that feeling of losing your sense of self and place as you go into work, dressed uniformly in a Next suit, in an indistinguishable space, staring at another spreadsheet.
“It’s also got a bit of a ‘how did I get here?’ sentiment, being at work thinking about what more aspirational (or more expensively educated) people might be doing.
“Ultimately, it voices a feeling of having ‘learnt to fall’, rather than taught to succeed – sinking into the safety net of unfulfilling white collar work.”
Home Counties’ “White Shirt / Clean Shirt” is released by Alcopop! Records today and is available on all digital service providers.