When you’re surrounded by open air markets struggling to stay running and a bus service that only runs every hour, there’s not much else to do other than listen to music.
Tucked away in the Calder Valley, this was Syd Minsky-Sargeant's youth. Voraciously devouring music until his preferences read like an all-you-can-eat buffet, with something from everywhere. But, like with The Orielles in nearby Halifax, he decided listening wasn’t enough. He needed to create something new.
Enter Working Men’s Club. What began as something more akin to a Joy Division inspired post-punk project, morphed into a muscular, Krautrock/techno beast. Disagreements, delayed album releases and perhaps premature signings ensued.
Maybe it was too soon for the band to make such big steps. The tonal shift from debut single “Bad Blood” to “Teeth” later that year showed they hadn’t quite figured themselves out yet. But, with a new band consisting of members of Drenge and Moonlandingz, their self-titled debut finally shows what Minsky Sargeant has been wanting to do all this time. And it’s thrilling.
It’s almost like the difference between ’81 New Order and ’89 New Order, but achieved in the space of a year. Vestiges of old Working Men’s Club remain, as with “White Rooms & People”, feeling somewhat out of place now. But much of this debut is packed with gurgling, yelping energy.
As the record whips from opener “Valleys” (“Trapped / inside a town / inside my mind” very much cementing why this record exists) to the unhinged coarseness of “A.A.A.A.”, Minksy-Sargeant’s vision becomes clear. This is Madchester escapism put through the prism of someone without that means of escape. Clambering for answers without finding them. Less celebratory, more cynical, but still eminently danceable and worth of a spot at The Hacienda.
It’s easy to lump Working Men’s Club in with the litany of other bands with a chaotic live energy inspired by The Fall doing the rounds. Their name does still belong alongside the likes of The Murder Capital. But Working Men’s Club are at least trying to make their own mark.
By the time the record reaches it’s 12-minute close “Angel”, it feels like a great release. You’ve been put through the ringer with the abrasive “Cook A Coffee” (with plenty of shots at a certain, now former, Politics Live pundit) and “Be My Guest” and made it out the other side. Sweatier and ready to take on the world.