Posts Tagged ‘Sleaford Mods’

Christopher Nosnibor

Almost invariably, when there’s a buzz building around a DIY act, they’ve had some kind of assistance or boost, either via a PR campaign or radio play, and / or some fortunate support slots. Not so Benefits, whose profile has grown with the speed of contagion of the pandemic: they’ve thrived during lockdown without management, any ‘proper’ releases, and next to no press (although that’s changing fast); but instead of them seeking out the coverage they’re the ones being sought out.

On paper, their appeal is limited: shouty sociopolitical spoken word paired with blistering squalls of electronic noise is kinda niche, right? Like Sleaford Mods only more noisy and a bit shoutier, right? Sociopolitical ranting aside, not so much. Mods have very much exploited the affront some people feel about their not being a ‘real’ band, and have turned the lack of performance into a schtick. Benefits are very much a band, and despite the swinging, rhythmic hip-hop style delivery of some of the lyrics, Benefits share more with harsh post-punk noisers Uniform than another other contemporary act that comes to mind.

Steve Albini perhaps sums up the two key, and seemingly opposing elements of what Benefits do in referring to the period of musical foment of the early 80s, with ‘the Crass/Pop Group ranting lefty/anarchist punks, and Whitehouse/TG/Cabaret Voltaire pure noise’. He’s not wrong when he writes that it’s ‘Been a while since something evoked that era as effectively as this Benefits track.’

But Benefits don’t only evoke that era: they’re a band that are precisely of the moment. During lockdown, people were on edge – and they still are as they emerge, blinking, into a world that has changed, and not for the better. More divided, more violent, it’s a difficult place to navigate. People are scared, and they’re also disaffected. Benefits channel and articulate all of this, and the buzz around tonight’s show was positively electric.

Feather Trade could easily be mistaken for being a ‘haircut’ band on face value, but their tousle-topped singer’s vocals invite comparisons to The Cooper Temple Clause’s Ben Gautrey, and the comparison to TCTC doesn’t end there as the trio blast through some jagged alternative rock defined by solid, meaty bass and gritty guitars. With a post punk vibe, great voice, the lineup may have been hastily-assembled, but they boast a truly great rhythm section. Switching between acoustic and electronic drums varies sound, and the line ‘fuck your trust fund’ from closer ‘Dead Boy’ is a sentiment we can get behind. Keeping the set to a punchy five songs, they made for a compelling opener, and I doubt I’m the only new fan they’ve won on this outing. I liked these guys a lot.

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Feather Trade

Some guys I never really liked are La Petite Mort: in fact, my last review of them was pegged to a single line in parenthesis. But this newly-resurrected iteration shows that they’ve evolved massively in the intervening years, transitioning from a novice sixth form indie band to something altogether more challenging, and altogether more powerful. If anything, there are shades of The Young Gods both sonically and visually. Now a duo with laptop and live drums, they’re dense, dark, intense. At some point, just as he has for Avalanche Party on occasion, Jared Thorpe whips out his sax and starts tooting away. No, it’s no euphemism. La Petite Mort embrace a slew of genre styles, and nail them to some tight, technical jazz drumming and lots and lots of reverb.

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La Petite Mort

This all leaves us ultra-hyped for the headliners, and they sure as hell don’t disappoint with their spoken word grindcore hybrid. With some brutal electronics from Robbie Major, they build from sparse, acappella hip hop to a blistering wall of noise. They build and build and rage so, so hard it’s savage. There are some smoochy hip-hop vibes, but they’re a stark contrast to the raving lyrics. ‘You get what you deserve’, Kingsley Hall warns, menacingly. Against the backdrop of Russia invading Ukraine as we look on, we hope it’s true. They venture into post punk / Sleaford Mods-ish territory just the once over the course of an hour-plus long set. Hall reads the lyrics to ‘Meat Teeth’ from his phone in a state of anguish. The song itself is stark, harsh, and it hurts. And yet this pain is what connects us with the band. Hall’s openness and honesty when he speaks between songs is like a body blow. This isn’t a performance, this is real. “What a fucking country, what a fucking state…. Sausage roll man… Tory cunt.” He admits to struggling with the whole being on stage thing, but it’s clear from the way he attacks every line, this is something he feels he simply has to do.

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Benefits

In a recent interview with Loud and Quiet, Hall explained, “I’ve got this pent-up anger and desire to speak and to shout and discuss. But how do I translate that?” On stage, that anger is anything but pent-up: it’s channelled into an eye-popping storm of words dragged from the very soul.

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Benefits

‘Flag’ steps up a level just when there seemed like no more levels to step up, with punishing percussion and snarling noise. It’s harsh, but so, so invigorating and cathartic. The encore / not encore is a perfect example of the way Benefits don’t conform, don’t play the game. And while doing things on their own terms in every way, they stand apart.

There’s no pithy one-liner to wrap this up: I leave, borderline delirious, simultaneously elated and stunned by what I’ve just witnessed – a show that was, frankly, nothing short of incredible.