It’s been an exciting journey for Working Men’s Club. After releasing BBC 6 Music favourite ‘Bad Blood’, line-up changes, such as the departure of co-founder/guitarist Giulia Bonometti to focus on her solo career, saw enigmatic frontman Syd Minsky-Sargeant take the band in a different direction. Their techno-punk single ‘Teeth’ transformed them from a post-punk band taking classic sounds and putting a modern spin on them, into an electronic collective. With the exception of ‘White Rooms And People’ which they released earlier this year, there are no remnants of the earlier guitar band incarnation of Working Men’s Club on their eagerly anticipated self-titled debut album.
‘Valleys’ sets the tone with a muted opening beat and thumping drums, mirroring the rush of blood pumping in your ears when you’re sat in silence, with Minsky-Sargeant’s distinctive vocals conveying the quietness of his sleepy hometown in West Yorkshire. Morbid lyrics “This winter is a curse/ and the valley is my hearse, when will it take me to my grave?” speak to the entrapment so many of us feel having grown up in a small town. An assured piano keeps the track light, driving forwards.
‘Valleys’ and other familiar tracks ‘A.A.A.A.’, ‘White Rooms And People’, and ‘Teeth’ sit well within the record. Frenetic single ‘A.A.A.A.’ is as restless as the opening track, and leads nicely into ‘John Cooper Clarke’, an intoxicating groove with existential messaging in the lyrics “The luckiest man alive, one day will die”. The record offers up relief from the anxieties of the first three tracks, in the form of the optimistic ‘White Rooms And People’, with a breezy melody and bright harmonies.
‘Outside’ takes us towards a more psychedelic shift, with ‘Be My Guest’’s squealing guitars providing an industrial sound. ‘Cook A Coffee’ might just be the standout track here – truly a modern-day lefist anthem, the band fearlessly, and hilariously ridicules right-wing BBC host Andrew Neil, with the lyrics “Tune into the BBC and watch me… defecate” and “You look like a cunt”, against dynamic guitar lines and tinny percussion. In a 12-and-a-half-minute long conclusion, Working Men’s Club deliver a sweet release with a Joy Division feel on ‘Angel’, an ethereal and mellow closing track.
Listening to this album is bittersweet – it’s a brilliant set of tracks, primed for a sweaty gig and a sticky floor to stomp on. Pre-pandemic, a Working Men’s Club’s show could sometimes prove difficult to get into. In a room of floor-filling beats, raw energy and sweat, once you were inside, finding the space to dance was even harder, with gig-goers rammed in surrounded by their distinctive brand of electro-punk. An album this energetic and full deserves to be heard live. It’s an exciting debut – the lyrics and beats are bold and risky, with Working Men’s Club emerging as confident and resilient as ever.