Establishing themselves as a riotous live act, Mossley five-piece Cabbage are all too easily rammed into the punk pigeonhole, although their self-created genre of “apocalyptic sprautrock” states otherwise (but what the hell does that mean anyway?).
Their anarchic live reputation was the main cause of the punk tags, but that reputation took an unfortunate turn for the worse after a controversial incident involving lead singer Lee Broadbent, when the band were supporting Kasabian at the Forum in London during 2017. Almost derailed in the ensuing furore, they managed to knuckle down and push on, releasing a debut album the following year – Nihilistic Glamour Shots – which finally arrived after a barrage of EPs dating back to 2016.
Their lyrics have also caused a stir politically, but as they’ve put it themselves, when writing songs about their lives, they will inevitably refer to current events, so perhaps it isn’t always intentional. With Broadbent’s vocals occasionally sounding like a cross between Pete Doherty and John Lydon, another punk or maybe post-punk reference is also unavoidable. The opening track from second album Amanita Pantherina, Leon The Pig Farmer, suggests the beginning of a raucous white-knuckle ride of hardcore punk: it’s fast, full of energy, under two minutes long and a statement of intent. Except, it’s not. At all. It’s a one-off, and basically a red herring.
The core of the album is, as it turns out, far less defined, as the boys traverse their way through a diverse, eclectic collection that only occasionally nods to punk. Despite the opener, as well as the power-packed presence of fuzzy guitars, petulantly spouted vocals and racing chorus of Raus! where a likeness to The Clash can be found, things are less predictable. Once Upon A Time In The North is admittedly rip-roaring as the pace quickens again but the laser-like keys and distorted vocals add something that most punk bands won’t go near.
I Was A Teenage Insect subtly uses their Kasabian influences to create a pulsating, undulating synth-line core as lyrics state, “they make you dance” before something akin to the Leicester band’s famed chanting gets a ramped-up revisitation. Distorted vocals again appear on the bass-driven Piles Of Smiles, whilst aptly named closer Terminates Here slows it right down, lazily chucking out lines like, “I was born with a brass neck” for something that’s more in line with The Specials than anything punk related.
Hatred strips things back completely and is a major highlight, whilst the equally impressive Medicine spits out observations in-between a snaking keyboard line and bouncy, rubbery bass: “I know the nature of evil, it’s in you”, the lyrics ominously state. Single Get Outta My Brain hits on a fuzzy, squelchy, psychedelic groove, but fellow single You’ve Made An Art Form (From Falling To Pieces) takes the award for most unlikely starting point, based on a Coronation Street script involving Ken and Deirdre Barlow, hard as it is to believe. Its poppy verses and simple yet effective guitar hook now point more towards Hooton Tennis Club and slacker rock in general than much else.
So to label Cabbage as pure punk, or even post-punk, is wide of the mark. They’re clearly adaptable and have that rare quality of being able to turn their hands successfully to most things they try. Whilst this maintains a high interest level throughout Amanita Pantherina, it leaves one wondering where they are going to go from here, for the number of paths open to them at this stage look plentiful.