Rubbery rhythms, Manc associations, psychedelic vocals loping around the mix… No, this isn’t King Monkey Ian Brown himself, but young protégés Working For A Nuclear Free City shaking a banana or two.
And Working For A Nuclear Free City don’t go by the catchiest or inviting of band names – they’re right up there with Virgin Prunes and Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts. Shame then that the music is a lot more engaging than their choice of moniker (nicked by the way from a sign by Manchester council).
The only working here seems to be a distillation of all things baggy and murky from their local history. The influence of the ’70s Krautrock kings of baggy Can looms large in the tight spiralling rhythms, hushed vocals and heady psychedelia that fuelled both the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses and still serves to give those other monkeys Kasabian a career. How to re-invent the wheel then, or more unfavourably, polish a turd?
Well, comparisons to Spiritualized, The Chemical Brothers and Sigur Rós all make a certain kind of sense when encountering the experimental ‘techno played on guitars’ boast. It’s an album full of contrasts from short little ambient pieces that remind of The Album Leaf (Pixelated Birds) to full on prog-tronica workouts that could be Spiritualized playing with The Chemical Brothers in a dingy Manchester nightclub dancing like a monkey (as on the eastern-tinged Forever).
Troubled Son, an itchy menace of shuffling bass beast, gets its muttering paranoid groove on but almost swamps itself in its own mystery. Dead Fingers Talking has been copying The Happy Mondays’ Loose Fit for homework with its snaking bass ‘n’ bleep riff and yes, guitars made to sound like techno. These two set a blistering pace that grabs but doesn’t necessarily inspire.
Once you get past the strutting bombast, the gentler colours are given a chance to shine through like the slight but sublime rainy day psychedelia of England, while Over is like The Beta Band as it blossoms into a frenetic guitar climax. Quiet Place could almost be a ballad with its warm widescreen washes. Innocence sounds like a prime cut of ’60s funk with added strangeness. Home is like a bedroom demo. By the time you get to the woozy string-laden sway of final track The Tree you feel like you have been on a bit of a journey, albeit a familiar one with a few unexpected stops.
Musically they could burst out of the stratosphere, but lyrically and vocally they remain club-footed, dragging a tired old drone around in an attempt to be ‘deep’. A bit more emotion and personality would make this truly their own sound. As it is it’s like a pick’n’mix from the baggy bargain basement.