Posts Tagged ‘Political’

Blaggers Records – 2nd June 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

London ‘synth-punk passion project’ Kill, The Icon, fronted by NHS Dr Nishant Joshi have been building their presence nicely in recent with a series of strong singles, kicking off with ‘Buddhist Monk’ in late 2021, and the trio have been kicking ass with pissed-off, politically-charged sonic blasts ever since, and gaining significant airplay and critical acclaim in the process.

The bio and background, for those unfamiliar with the band, is worth visiting, as the context of the music is important. As much as Kill, The Icon are a part of a growing swell of artists who are using their music to not only channel their frustration and to voice their dissent – in a way which can’t get them arrested, at least not at the moment, no doubt to Suella Braverman’s irritation – Joshi is also very much an activist.

Joshi made national headlines during the pandemic, being the first frontline NHS doctor to go public with concerns that staff were not being protected. In true punk rock style Joshi and his wife then launched a legal challenge against the government. They won the case, making huge change and were recognised by The FA and England’s football team. Fueled with frustration, in the summer of 2020 KILL, THE ICON! was born as an extension of Joshi’s activism.

You certainly couldn’t accuse these guys of being all mouth and no action, but of course, the power of music as a unifying force should never be underestimated, particularly when our government’s modus operandi is to divide enfeeble the populace. It wasn’t just Brexit, which say the country not so much split and cleaved in twain: now there is a war being waged on benefit claimants (or scroungers and fraudsters, as they’re portrayed, dehumanising society’s most vulnerable in the process); a war on woke (anyone who is opposed to racism, misogyny, homophobia is the enemy); a war on migration… everything is cut between ‘us’ and ‘them’, and the smaller the splinters, the less the likelihood of meaningful, coherent opposition, especially when even so much as having a placard in your car boot is likely to lead to a pre-emptive arrest.

While the four tracks on Your Anger is Rational have been released as singles in the run-up to its release, with ‘Danny Is A Hate Preacher’ landing just ahead of the release date, packaging them together as an EP presents a precise statement of what they’re about.

It’s ‘Heavy Heart’ that’s up first, a no-messing ballsy banger that calls out the racism that’s not only rife but seemingly accepted post-Brexit, and the second track, the gothy ‘Deathwish’ (accompanied by the first AI promo video) steps up on this, with its refrain of ‘No blacks! No dogs! No Irish!’. ‘They used to whisper / And now they shout’, Joshi observes, and sadly it’s true. For a time, it felt like we had progressed from the casual racism of our grandparents – I remember feeling uncomfortable hearing my late grandmother talk – without malice – about ‘darkies’ and ‘coloureds’, and feeling a certain lightness of being at the sense we had moved on, stamping out the BNP and becoming more inclusive… but then the right has risen again with Farage and UKIP and Britain First and Stephen Yaxley-Lennon and in the blink of an eye there are flag-waving racist cunts everywhere and Christ it’s fucking ugly.

And as much as Your Anger is Rational is a unified work musically, it’s lyrically and thematically that it really comes together. With a hard, driving bass to the fore, ‘Danny Is A Hate Preacher’ explores how indoctrination from an early age spawns the next generation of wrongheadedness, how violence begets violence, and I’m reminded of Larkin’s ‘This Be the Verse’. Your parents really do fuck you up. And now it’s not just parents taking kids to racist rallies, kids are being moulded by ‘influencers’ like Andrew Tate, and again, adults are buying into and propagating this obnoxious shit too: I’ve had to defriend a number of people on Facebook for sharing his content. My anger is, indeed, rational: we’re surrounded by cunts.

The last track, ‘Protect the Band’ is slower, more measured, but again, it’s a bass-dominated grinder with a monster groove, and it’s all pinned tightly together with some sturdy drumming and it’s a magnificent dismantlement of corporate hierarchies and the way they oppress workers into subservience. Protect the brand! But will the brand protect its staff? Will it fuck.

As much as Kill, the Icon are punk in aesthetic and sentiment, they’re very much new wave in their sound and approach. And while they’re strong on the punchy slogans and lyrical repetitions, KTI are more articulate and more nuanced than your average rabble-rousing punkers.

There isn’t a weak track in here. Musically, sonically, lyrically, they’ve got everything nailed and it’s tight: there’s no waste, everything is measured and weighed for maximum impact, but it’s still delivered with a coolness and a real groove, which makes this absolutely killer work.

your anger is rational

HalfMeltedBrain Records – 9th June 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

They may have only formed in 2020 during lockdown, but Brighton’s heavy post-punk noisemakers Mules (not to be confused with 90s US punk blues band, Mule) have already racked up three digital single releases before this six-track cassette EP. And while three of the tracks here are the preceding singles (with a studio recording of the live debut, ‘I Think We Need to Talk’, Illusions of Joy stands as a taut, cohesive document.

Their bio pitches their sound as being ‘equal parts dissonant and melodic, with a tight rhythm section providing insistent motorik grooves and angular rhythms’, adding that ‘In the tradition of Mark E Smith, the vocals are generally spoken, with very little concession to melody. Occasionally they escalate into a desperate and emotional yelp. With roots in the punk scene, Mules take influence from the first wave of post-punk, indie-rock, 90s noise-rock, and various more contemporary bands such as Parquet Courts, Metz, and Gilla Band.’

At the risk of repeating myself, shit times do at least make for decent music, and it’s no coincidence that the social and political landscape in which we find ourselves, which bears remarkable parallels to Thatcher’s Britain, is spawning a wave of disaffected musical voices. It’s not simply that the contemporary crop are aping the sound and feel of the first generation of punk and new wave acts because it feels fitting: the music itself is a means of articulating those knotty emotions that are a conglomeration of anger and frustration and the sense of powerlessness in the face of a need for change. Angularity, discord, dissonance, noise; these are the sonic vehicles which carry the sentiments sonically.

And so it is that while the primary grist to Mules’ mill is ‘everyday life in Tory austerity Britain’, they also pull on ‘broader themes, which draw on Tommy’s MA thesis, such as cultural hegemony, global political economy, and systems of control.’

There’s something particularly pleasing about hearing the words ‘cultural hegemony’ in the first verse of the first song on a record. Because as much as we live in shit times on so many levels, a real bugbear – and a genuine issue – is the dumbing down of culture; we have a government who openly attack intellectualism and deride ‘experts’, who refuse to engage in debate and view critical thinking as unhealthy – and in their tenuous position of power which serves only to protect their own interests – and, specifically, wealth – it is. And so it is that ‘Ergonomic Living’ takes its lead from Marxist social critique, and while the verses are defined by an insistent beat and wandering guitar, it all explodes into a roaring chorus. I’m reminded rather of Bilge Pump, and this is very much a good thing.

‘The Things We Learn in Books’ spews lists of theory against some driving guitars, and the urgency of the delivery is gripping and exhilarating. ‘Lonely Bored and High’ is the most Fall-like of the songs, but there’s a dubby element to it as well as spacious atmosphere, rendering it as much Bauhaus as The Specials, and again, it rips into a raging chorus. Fuck, these guys have such a knack for dynamics and tempo changes, it’s hard to respond in any way other than pumping your fists, because YEAHHHHH!!! FUCK, YEAHHHH!

‘I Think We Need to Talk’ is mathy, messy, disorientating, hypnotic, and ‘Clapping for Carers’ largely speaks for itself. Claps don’t pay bills, motherfuckers, and it shouldn’t be volunteers distributing limp packaged sandwiches and bags if crisps to the people sitting for ten hours or more in A&E units up and down the country (this one’s particularly sore for me, but we’ll save that for another time and just leave it that hearing a song like this really revs me).

Feeling angry and frustrated but disenfranchised and disempowered? Mules speak to, and for, you.



19th May 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

A couple of months after the epic grind-influenced outing that was ‘I Am Weak’, Bournemouth-based quartet Solcura return with their fourth single since their debut album, Serotonin, released in 2021, ‘Imposter Syndrome’. They describe it as an ‘absolute rager’ and ‘a result of the miasma of deceit and media tyranny we are all forced to swallow every single day of our lives.’

Music that was so angry and overtly political was rare only a year or so back. Practically every other release was a lockdown project, or addressed the challenges and traumas of lockdown; the isolation, the depression, and it was only natural that that would be the case. Not everyone is over lockdown or has recovered from the impacts of the pandemic and its handling, not by a long shot. Many suffer from levels of anxiety – particularly social anxiety – not experienced before, and many still haven’t got back on track financially, either. So many people got fucked in so many ways, and the likelihood is that it will take years – and years – before people are back to themselves again.

But the mood has definitely shifted, at least here in the UK, and particularly in England. The zeitgeist is no longer one of reflection, and if the mood remains on the downside, it’s no longer directed inward, as the fallout of the Johnson administration has ignited an incendiary rage that eclipses any inward-looking darkness. As the corruption of our government becomes exposed with new revelations practically by the day, from the billions tossed to mega-rich buddies for PPE that either never materialised or was otherwise unfit for purpose, to the crumbling NHS and public network system, while top execs and shareholders gouge immense profits while workers – now striking en mass – are being told there’s no spare cash for wages because of inflation, the swell of anger at the sense not only have we all been had, but that we’re being utterly screwed and lied to, brazenly, has built from a mutter of dissent to a scream of rage.

For a time, Sleaford Mods and Killing Joke were pretty much the only acts telling it like it is, but the explosive rise of Benefits, on paper the band least likely to go massive and hit the festival circuit of all time tells you precisely where we’re at now as a nation. And this is where Solcura are at: they’re pissed off and are going to shout about it.

‘Imposter Syndrome’ finds Solcura exploring some richly atmospheric vibes at the start, with spaced-out, slightly trippy, stumbling guitar and mystical wordless vocals that radiate spiritualism. Then, thirty-odd seconds in, the guitar slams in on hard overdrive and bangs into Soundgarden territory, with a beefy riff. The drums really stand out among it all, the snare a sharp crack that cuts through the thick distortion, with a hint of Therapy? pulling through it all.

The commination of melodic, reverby vocals and chunky riffage also reminds me of early Amplifier, but then there are some dark overtones and screamy backing vocals that are more nu-metal than neo-prog, and the two elements combine to optimal effect. This is some savvy musical alchemy here, and ‘Imposter Syndrome’ is a dense work with depth and dynamics. Yes, it harks back to the early 90s, but that’s another reflection of the time we live in. Recycling is good, especially when it’s done this well. Believe the hype. Believe in Solcura.


Bronson Recordings – 26th May 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

90s alt-rock band Come, fronted by Thalia Zedek, provided my route to discovering Live Skull, which she joined in 1987 and took over lead vocal duties. But my curiosity and interest in evolution and lineage led me to pick up cheap vinyl copies of Bringing Home the Bait and Don’t Get Any on You, which, brimming with shouty vocals, scratchy guitars and low-slung bass, could reasonably be described as No-Wave classics.

Somewhat ironically for a band which emerged out of the foment of 80s New York which also spawned Sonic Youth and Swans, the Live Skull reportedly disbanded in 1990 due to sustained lack of commercial success.

Perspectives change over time, although it was perhaps more of a returning to their original motivations which spurred them to reconvene in 2016, since when they’ve released two albums, with Party Zero being the third, and the seventh studio album of their career.

Delivering an album that’s described as ‘a fiercely political album, in keeping with this politically fierce age’ and ‘timely music, essential, impassioned, angry and beautiful’ founder Mark C. It is a politically fierce age, and now more than any time since the late 70s and early 80s – a period which spawned so many bands who existed as an outlet for frustration and anger and all kinds of difficult and even ugly emotions through nihilistic noise and various forms of confrontation and antagonism.

Sonically, Party Zero isn’t especially nihilistic or noisy, confrontational or antagonistic, but does very much refine these elements and hone the delivery of an almost obsessive focus on corruption, abuse of power, inequality and injustice.

If the sound is rather more polished and widescreen than their 80s releases, the key ingredients are still there, not least of all jagged guitars that blur and crackle with treble and careen into dissonance and discord against big, bold basslines. There’s a palpable sense of urgency to the songs on Party Zero. It may not be their strongest album or their most innovative or distinctive – but it’s an album that’s necessary.

“We’ve been pushed to the edge – how do we claw our way back? That’s been a common theme in Live Skull since the beginning, and so it is now. We’re trying to provoke thought.” There seems to be a rising tide of bands out to achieve these same ends, now, and from a vastly diverse range of stylistic contexts, from the minimal beats and loops of Sleaford Mods to the raging ranting noise-blasts of Benefits via the angular post-punk of I Like Trains. People are pissed off – and they’re frustrated, and scared – and those people in bands are using their platforms to call the bullshit, the fearmongering, the manipulation, the rise of the right and the immorality of governments and multinational companies.

It’s not just the pithy lyrics: ‘Neutralize the Outliers’ sounds like a rabble-rousing protest song, more New Model Army than anything that belies the band’s origins, and it works because it feels necessary, vital.

‘Chords of Inquiry’ plugs away at a simple, spare riff driven by crashing drums, and the drumming is a strong contributor to the album’s dynamic feel, and nowhere more on ‘Mad Kingship’, as they thunder along in a sustained roll. ‘Inside the Exclusion Zone’ is accessible, but driven, choppy, urgent, with a contemporary post-punk feel – think Radio 4’s take on the Gang of Four sound – and the same is true of ‘Turn Up the Static’, with its dubby strolling bass that ambulates through the reverby verses (before the chorus slugs out a mid-tempo fist-pumping holler-along call to arms).

And this is why the surge in protest music is what we need right now. It likely won’t change the world; the chances it won’t change opinions or provoke all that much thought, since most people who are likely to listen to Live Skull are the kind of people who are already in the same camp of political frustration or despair – and that’s ok. What these people – we – need is to know we’re not alone, and to feel a sense of unity and community, and for these feelings of frustration and anger to be articulated by relatable voices. Party Zero does that – and with some solid tunes.



21st April 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

You know you’re onto something when you get banned from a platform, and so it is that the promo for ‘Heavy Heart’ got canned from VIMEO, usually one of the more forgiving platforms, and you have you ask ‘why?’ It features clips of various failed British Prime Ministers – notably Theresa May’s infamous grooves and various right-wing twats like Farage and Fox and Yaxley-Lennon (Tommy Robinson my arse), pontificating and being pelted with milkshake: nothing untoward, just news footage. So what’s the issue? Perhaps the platform took issue with the featuring of the visage of that out-and-out fash Suella Braverman. But more likely it was starving families juxtaposed with Churchill, toting a machine gun while smoking a cigar, because fuck me, that exposé of the dark side of British politics is hard to swallow for some. No-one wants to contemplate the possibility that Churchill was a twat – an aristocratic political defector and an imperialist – which makes Johnson’s idolisation make deeper sense.

Nishant Joshi’s words which accompany this release are a grim indictment on ‘Great’ Britain in 2023 – the nation which chose to leave the EU (albeit by a slim margin, and that’s something that can’t be stressed enough) on the basis of an ‘advisory’ referendum in 2016. Because ‘the will of the people’? Half the country didn’t even bother to vote because it was a non-issue for them, and only a slender majority of those who did made it happen. But it’s that slender majority who were the most vocal.

He says ‘I was faced with racial slurs when I was younger, but nobody has uttered a racial epithet to my face for many years. But, I know the racists who existed in the 90s are still alive and well. They didn’t die out all of a sudden, and neither did their ideas. So, the point of this song is that everyone acknowledges that racists exist. But nobody will ever admit to being racist – so where did they all go? My answer is that they all wear disguises: as politicians, right-wing journalists, and talking heads for shady think-tanks. The brazen racism has retreated into the shadows, and subtle racism has taken over.’

Will Self said it best when he said ‘Not all Brexiters are racists, but almost all racists will be voting for Brexit’. And that sad fact is, we live in not only a divided society, but, post-Brexit, a more overtly racist society. The referendum outcome has emboldened people to espouse their racist views, with racially-motivated attacks not just affecting blacks and Asians, but also Eastern Europeanss, notably Poles, etc.

Fuck’s sake. We’re a mess. Who do we think has been picking out strawberries and delivering our coffee in Starbucks and Costa thee last decade? The people shunting stacked-up trolleys for click and collect and home deliveries from the supermarket? Large fries?

In Britain, capitalism itself is institutionally racist in a century-long hangover from the empire.

‘Heavy Heart’ kicks straight in with a buzzing, fuzzing, gritty bass and kicking drums that yell urgency. And yes, this is urgent, and it and locks into a throbbing groove that really grabs you hard, a magnificently poised dance / punk hybrid. Just as punk gave voice to a generation frustrated and marginalised, so, sadly, what goes around comes around, and once again, it’s music which is a powerful medium for channelling that frustration. We need change, and it’s voices like Joshi’s which give us hope. And in the meantime, Kill, The Icon! give us a unifying energy, and exhilarating tunes.



Invada Records – 21st April 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Eagerly-awaited’ and ‘hotly-anticipated’ are phrases which are often tossed about with abandon when it comes to albums, but Benefits’ debut really has had a lot of people on the edge of their seats for months, and it’s no wonder the limited vinyl and less limited CD sold out well ahead of the release.

Their rise has been truly meteoric, but if ever a band deserved to be catapulted from nowhere to selling out shows up and down the country, it’s Benefits, who’ve done it all by themselves and on their own terms, garnering rave live reviews and scoring interviews in the NME and The Guardian and, well, pretty much everywhere. They don’t only deserve it because of their DIY ethic: they deserve it because they’re an unassuming bunch of guys from the north of England (which in industry terms is an instant disadvantage), and moreover, they’re fucking incredible. And it’s not hyperbole to say that they are the voice of the revolution. It’s unprecedented for a band this sonically abrasive to rocket into a position of such widespread appreciation, and even more so when they’re not readily pigeonholed.

Attitudinally, they’re punk as fuck, but musically, not so much: while there are elements of hardcore in the shouted sociopolitical lyrics and frenetic drumming, there isn’t a guitar in sight, not anything that remotely sounds like one. They’re certainly not metal. And you can’t dance to their tunes – because ‘tunes’ is a bit of a stretch (although that’s no criticism). If their subject matter and modus operandi share some common ground with Sleaford Mods – disaffected, working class, ranty, sweary – they’re leagues apart stylistically. Whereas the Mods will joince and jockey and nab the listener with a battery of pithy one-liners, Benefits are an all-out assault, ever bar a sucker-punch of anger blasted home on a devastating wall of noise.

A fair few tracks here have previously been released as singles, although several previous singles, including the recent ‘Thump’ are notably absent to make room for previously unreleased songs, and the sequencing of the ten tracks which made the cut is spot on.

The first, ‘Marlboro Hundreds’, is a massive blast of percussion that grabs the listener by the throat with its immediate impact. Reject hate! Question everything! Success is subjective! The messages may be simple, but they’re essential, positive, and delivered with sincerity and all the fire that cuts through the bullshit and mediocrity. The grinding electronics take a back seat against the drumming, and the vocals are quite low in the mix, but with a clearly enunciated delivery and a crisp EQ they cut through with a penetrating sharpness that really bites.

The album takes a very sharp turn into darker, less accessible territories: ‘Empire’ is a dark, mangled mess of agonising noise, and defines one of the album’s key themes, namely of the dark terrain of patriotism and nationalism which defines and divides Brexit Britain, while warning of the dangers of passivity and blind acceptance of the echo-chamber of social media and the shit pumped out by the government and right-wing media outlets.

Lead single ‘Warhorse’ is the most overtly song-like song in the set. It’s raw punk with electronics, and the one that could legitimately be described as a cross between Sleaford Mods and IDLES, but with a raging hardcore punk delivery. The slouching dub of ‘Shit Britain’ offers quite different slant, spoken word rap groove.

‘What More Do You Want’ swipes at critics of ‘political correctness gone mad’ and the ‘anti-woke’ wankers and it minimal musical arrangement with stuttering percussion renders it almost spoken with an avant-jazz backing, before horrendous blasts of noise tear forth with such force as to threaten to annihilate the speakers. This is Benefits at their best and most unique.

‘Meat Teeth’ is sparse and plain fucking brutal as Hall rants and raves over a growing tide of distortion and feedback. The track packs so much fury that its impact is immense, especially in its tumultuous climax.

Arguably the definitive Benefits cut, ‘Flag’ incorporates rave elements to test through jingoism and nationalistic bullshit, taking down the kind of cunts who voted Brexit while owning a second home in Spain, the monarchy-loving casually-racist flag-shaggers who sup Carling and love an Indian while bemoaning all the ‘coloured’ doctors in hospitals and surgeries, and the Poles ‘coming over here and taking our jobs’ despite no-one else being willing to sweat it out behind the counter at Costa or pick strawberries for less than minimum wage. It’s the same duality of these so-called ‘patriots’ and past generations that provide the focus of ‘Traitors’ ‘We get the future you deserve’ Hall rages at the boomers who’ve sold out the subsequent generations for buy to let homes and destroying the planet for greed, share dividends, and skiing holidays. His voice cracks as he spits the words, the fury at this fucked-up mess. It’s powerful, and it really does occupy every inch of your being listening to this, because it ignites every nerve in our body to connect with such raw intensity.

‘Council Rust’ brings a more tranquil tone, but it’s not a calmness that comes from seeing the light at the end of the tunnel but from a sense of hopelesness, of feeling battered and bereft. Nails leaves you feeling drained, but uplifted. Yes, everything is fucking shit, but you are not alone: Benefits know, and articulate those tensing muscles and clenching fists and heart palpitations and moments where you feel as if you can’t quite breathe into incendiary sonic blasts. Benefits are without doubt the most essential band in (shit) Britain right now. And with Nails, they have, indeed, nailed it.



21st April 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve been trying to wrap both my tongue and my brain around the title of this album for what feels like an age: it’s something of a linguistic conundrum. Depending on your interpretation, ‘preter’ is either ‘more than’ or ‘past’ (which becomes a tautology when paired with the ‘retro’ of ‘retrospective’. Not that this is a retrospective in any conventional sense, being a collection of new material from The Noise Who Runs, a duo based in France, consisting of Ian Pickering, perhaps best known as one of the Sneaker Pimps.

It’s perhaps not entirely surprising that there’s a vaguely trip-hop feel to some of the songs on this varied and sprawling album which equally carries a dark 80s vibe – meaning that there are some really deftly layered arrangements and a lot of space in which to wander and explore the sounds and your own internal monologue while listening to Preteretrospective.

We’re steered into the album via the singles released in advance of the release, most recently ‘2poor2die’, which places the socio-political leanings of the pair to the fore and lands slap in the middle of the album as a towering centrepiece.

But it starts with another single, and the first song, ‘Beautiful Perhaps’ owes much to Disintegration-era Cure, but through a filter of She Wants Revenge: that is to say, it’s a contemporary take on a retro style, and it’s well done. This is true of the album as a whole. Perhaps my appreciation of trip-hop has always been because it has a certain hazy darkness about it, which to my ear renders it a cousin to goth and shoegaze.

‘Off the Rails’ incorporates elements of Dub and reggae, with an insistent marching beat and nagging bass groove dominating an otherwise sparse arrangement reminiscent of a more electronic reimagining of The Specials – with social commentary to match.

‘Somewhere Between Dogs and Wolves’ is a slow, atmospheric groover that really draws you in slowly: it’s pop, but it’s dark, minimal, with some pretty harrowingly visual lyrics. It’s compelling listening, and resonates in a way that nothing that qualifies as pop now can touch. ‘So Good it’s Free’ owes aspects of its melody to ‘Boorn Slippy’, but is a mellow shoegaze / acoustic song that sits apart from most protest songs – and make no mistake, this is a protest song. For all the mellow tones – look no further than the shuffling, jangling indie of ‘Zoe’s Edible Garden’ for evidence of the rather twee 90s indie that would be a prominent feature of John Peel’s show circa ‘93 – Preteretrospective has much depth alongside its range. This brings us to ‘2poor2die’, which is pretty bleak and brimming with frustrated energy.

As the press for the single points out, ‘the spiritual centrepiece of this 14-track offering, ‘2poor2die’ addresses the growing inequality in society and the struggle of the unheard / unseen decent people without voices and increasingly without hope. It is, at once, a celebration of ordinary bravery in the face of the daily grind of routine and a condemnation of the eternal ideology that sees working people as cannon fodder, only to be told “Shut up and get on with it, nothing’s gonna change”. Call it a tribute to the folks who are barely considered worth considering by the powers that be.’

With the chasm between the haves and have-nots yawning ever wider, this is punchy and on-point, sadly. But hearing such politics without the hectoring delivery of Sleaford Mods is welcome, not least of all because it really does represent the groundswell of opposition to oppression. There’s a reason why pretty much every profession is striking right now. Yes, we’re all being shafted, and we all need to take a stand.

Preteretrospective is a complex beast: a strongly contemporary album with retro stylings which confronts contemporary issues. At times it’s quite dancey, but whereas so often in the past dance equated to the escapism of clubtastic euphoria, with or without chemical enhancement, Preteretrospective is clear-eyed, clear-headed and irritated.


The Noise Who Runs 3 - photo by Théo Valenduc

Photo by Théo Valenduc

21st October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

What a week to drop a new single. Especially if you’re a politically-charged British band. And particularly if you’re Benefits. Their meteoric ascendancy continues unabated: still without label, management, or PR, they’ve had the video for their new single premiered on none other than Rolling Stone Magazine’s website. They are most certainly not your typical Rolling Stone act. Yes, the magazine may historically have been an outlet for Hunter S. Thomson’s writing and been both political and cutting edge, more recently, it’s been very much more establishment. But it’s reach is huge, and if this suggests by any means that Benefits have gone establishment, you’re either nuts, or you’ve not heard of Benefits before.

For a band like this to be given such a platform isn’t simply a big deal – it’s practically the sounding horn of revolution. And as the British government collapses around our ears faster than 24/7 scrolling news can update their marquees, the timing could not be better.

Against a grinding, undulating, distorted mechanical throb, Kingsley Hall delivers another lacerating dissection of Real Life, carving his way through anxiety and dayjob drudgery, corporate and political doublespeak, endless bullshit filtered and amplified through the echo chambers of social media, ‘failure masked as victory’.

Two-thirds in, a hefty industrial beat kicks in and gives a solidity to the squalling blast of thick, thick noise, and the roaring rage yields to a crisp, clinical spoken word monologue that in many ways hits even harder than that savage raw-throated primal scream, and there’s glimmer of home as he intimates ‘we can win this’… and then, abruptly, nothing. It’s the most unexpected ending to a sing since Dinosaur Jr’s cover of The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’.

It’s also Benefits’ most uncompromisingly brutal and heavyweight release yet, as well as their most fully realised.

The world is changing fast. We may be quite literally drowning in shit on the coasts of this brown and deeply unpleasant pleasant land, but Benefits are doing their bit to make it a better place, not by bringing sunshine, but telling it like it is.



Benefits are on your in November:

May be an image of one or more people and text that says "enefits 18/11 GLASGOW stereo 23/11 LONDON oslo 19/11 SUNDERLAND pop recs 24/11 NOTTINGHAM bodega 20/11 SOUTHAMPTON joiners 25/11 MANCHESTER yes 21/11 EXETER cavern 26/11 LEEDS brudenell 22/11 BRISTOL strange brew tickets all shows available on sale friday 10am"

Christopher Nosnibor

I like trains. Ironically, it was a lack of trains that almost prevented my making this show, as the largest national strike in the series yet meant there were none operating. David Martin and his band also likes trains, as he reminded us during one of his few brief exchanges with the audience during the set, going on to add “we support the action”. So would many in the audience, judging by the response.

While we’re waiting for things to get underway, we’re afforded the opportunity to appreciate the magnificent surroundings to a backdrop of minimal instrumental beats, before northern noise duo Polevaulter take to the stage assault our ears with a truly abrasive racket. Having given a platform to the emerging Benefits late last year, ILT have come up trumps with another killer support act this time. Complimentary but contrasting to the headliners, Polevaulter hit us with stark, crisp programmed drums and dirty live bass grind and feedback and shouty vocals. They’re a powerful hybrid of post-punk and industrial, and crank out a blinding wall of nihilism. As much Cabaret Voltaire and Factory Floor as Benefits or Sleaford Mods, they equally belong to the Leeds lineage of drum-machine driven post punk defined by the mutant noise of Age of Chance.



More minimal beats pave the way to an atmospheric intro as I Like Trains take to the stage and launch into a set that – unsurprisingly – is dominated by tracks from KOMPROMAT, their first album in eight years. There’s a palpable urgency to the performance, which launches with the triple salvo of ‘A Steady Hand’, ‘Desire is a Mess’, and ‘Dig In’.

They’re tight and look reinvigorated – and Guy Bannister still looks the same as he did back in 2005, switching between – and sometimes simultaneously playing -guitar and synths, integral to the rich, deep, and full-bodied sound, while the visuals make for a full 360-degree multisensory experience. They still kill the crescendos, too, and I’m reminded once again why I’ve been coming back to see this band for the last fifteen years: they really do put everything into their shows, and play hard, too.


I Like Trains

They pack the songs in tight, with minimal chat or pause, and deliver ear-shredding bursts of noise from seemingly out of nowhere, and tonight, they’re as good as they’ve ever been. Having moved from a baritone croon to a more spoken style of vocal, David Martin actually pushes himself a lot harder in his delivery: there’s real passion behind every line, and – more irony – in having assimilated slogans and double speak clichés into the fabric of his lyrics, he’s truly found his own voice as a writer.


I Like Trains

Mid-set, they play a rearranged version of ‘The Beaching Report’ from Progress Reform. With some screwdriver slide guitar work, it’s bleak and haunting, and simply had to be played. Reform, reform… What goes around comes around, history repeats, and cuts bite ever harder. The song’s relevance now brings a lump to the throat: today’s strikes aren’t purely about pay, but reforms that will have a significant impact on safety.

History and remembrance have run as themes through I Like Trains’ work since their very beginning, but tonight, observing the contrast between the refrain of ‘Terra Nova’, of Scott’s doomed arctic expedition – ‘More’s the shame / they will remember my name’ – and Boris Johnson’s gurning face against the slogan ‘God loves a winner’ during The Spectacle’ – which absolutely kicks – is a sobering experience.

Toward the end of the set, they finally concede to a proper delve into the back catalogue (although there are no songs from Elegies to Lessons Learnt – thanks to the early finish meaning we don’t get the ‘Spencer Percival’ encore of the night before) or The Deep), giving us ‘A Rook House for Bobby’ (dedicated to the memory of Debs, “perhaps the biggest I Like Trains fan”) and ‘Terra Nova’ back to back, both bringing ear-bleeding crescendos.

They close with an absolutely stonking extended rendition of ‘The Truth’, with a thudding, insistent bass groove chopping a deep furrow against a backdrop of warped images of Liz Truss. The climactic thrust which sees David nailing the truth of the truth and appropriating my own stage performance style in the process (and who wouldn’t want to, right?), tossing screwed cards into the crowd and flipping the written cues in all directions… it feels like a performative metaphor, whereby the truth is discarded wantonly, recklessly, with no regard, before he finally intimates ‘The truth will trickle down… I am totally out of my depth’. He’s never been more intense than this, and I Like Trains have never felt more vital.