DAISY GRAY reviews Working Men’s Club’s debut album.
The self-titled debut album of Yorkshire-based band Working Men’s Club is an absolute synth delight. Momentum is definitely the operative word, as the fresh-faced band have pumped their new record full of an energy that is both steeped in bright youthfulness, and is seriously stylish.
For those already familiar with Working Men’s Club from their acclaimed single Bad Blood released last year, the first track of their debut could be a little surprising. Once the drum machine evolves from its simple beat into a little synth explosion, though, the surprise becomes very welcome indeed. Bad Blood was a great post-punk leaning track, but it was not necessarily remarkable, or ground-breaking – just a bit of fun. Front-man Sydney Minsky-Sargeant has certainly worked to retain the energy of their debut single, but the new sound is a lot more sophisticated. The band underwent a complete line-up change, as well as pursuing a big change in style. ‘I guess WMC started off as a bit more guitar-based, trying to copy stuff in our own way,’ Minsky-Sargeant explains, ‘but I didn’t want it to be that anymore. It became dancier and dancier as I tried to experiment’. Now, Working Men’s Club have reclaimed synth for the modern, post-punk age (but, if the 80s-esque tone is a little too much for you, I at least recommend the track John Cooper Clarke, for a superb compromise).
Unlike some debut albums, particularly in this genre, Working Men’s Club debut is never ‘samey’, or boring. It glides effortlessly between tracks like Teeth, with its deep, punchy synth and echoing vocals, and Angel – a twelve-minute track of pure, unrelenting bass/synth harmony. Be My Guest delves into some grungier notes, with the middle of the album providing a welcome tonal shift, away from unbridled optimism into something a little more serious. But even as each track twists and turns away from the last one, the whole record maintains the same synth-y backdrop, which really serves as the album’s soul – with Minsky-Sargeant’s dead-pan vocals as it’s heartbeat.
Do not mistake the bright and upbeat tones for unadulterated happy-clappy vibes. Lyrically, Working Men’s Club is pretty dense, covering the futility of life, and even the unfortunate realisation that beloved punk-poet John Cooper Clarke will die someday (thanks for reminding us). A.A.A.A. is one of those tracks that seems just to be a load of fun until you pay attention to the lyrics; ‘Dream again, Of empty notions,’ Minsky-Sargeant yells, ‘Thick dark sleeps, Is this enough?!’. The slight existentialism is very well suited to the overall 2020 mood – but at least it is not all melancholia, and it has a funky beat to it.
Working Men’s Club provides a very warm welcome to this great band – one that is already a semi-regular feature on BBC Radio 6. I seriously recommend taking a few minutes to sit and listen to tracks like Teeth if you are not already familiar with them. A little bit of synth-pop is maybe just what modern music needs more of.
Working Men’s Club was released by Heavenly Recordings, on the 2nd October 2020.
Featured image courtesy of heavenlyrecordings.com.