New kids on block hit nail on head
Let’s get this straight for starters. The Working Men’s Club that this young northern crew take their name from is not the refurbished, repurposed hipster hangout you’ll find in Balham or Bethnal Green. It’s the dusty real deal, steeped in the traditions of the north, as indeed everything about this album is, made by those kids you’ll find skulking around the periphery, minesweeping illicit pints of lager or pooling resources for a quick toke of skunk in the car park when no one’s looking.
In keeping with this resolutely northern tradition, as well as no doubt the wide-reaching vision that growing up with the internet brings, Working Men’s Club are a band blissfully unaware of the tribal divisions between music.
‘Valleys’, which kicks off the album, comes on like an Italo-disco anthem, plonking pianos and all, only to have the good vibes crushed by the claustrophobic inner narrative of singer Sydney Minsky-Sargeant. “Stuck inside a town” he declares, “inside my mind” and you know in one line he’s already tapped into and nailed down the mindset of a Covid-era teenage nation.
By the album’s close, ‘Angel’, he sounds like Jaz Coleman fronting a drum machine-driven Cocteau Twins, but it’s all done in an effortless, unconscious way that tells you this music is hard wired into their DNA rather than an acquired list of desirable, name-droppable influences.
Working Men’s Club have affiliations on both sides of the Pennines and so does their sound. The brutal synth steel of Sheffield – see ‘Teeth’ or ‘Tomorrow’ – blends instinctively into classic Manc-style grit and swagger, with Minsky-Sargeant channelling Mark E Smith’s magnetic hectoring via more modern references like Sleaford Mods and Fat White Family. ‘White Rooms And People’ adds a layer of ACR-style funkiness and gushing New Order keys to become a breezy, optimistic uplifter, but the gnarlier, grimmer moments like ‘AAAA’ and ‘Cook A Coffee’ are just as full of infectious vitality. The suave, concrete disco tribute to the bard of Salford, ‘John Cooper Clarke’, might be our favourite, but the whole album is a highlight-heavy affair.
The sound of locked-down lockdown youth in glorious revolt, maybe? Whatever, you need to hear this.