Cabbage – Nihilistic Glamour Shots

They seem to have been around for so long, it comes as something of a surprise to realise that this marks the debut album for Mossley’s Cabbage. One of a wave of socially-aware punk bands – a genre that seems to be enjoying a resurgence in direct correlation with the effects of austerity – the quintet have been noisily gathering as much of a fanbase as they have attracted controversy since 2015. Yet, while they have been endlessly touring and releasing quick-hit EPs, the likes of Shame and IDLES amongst others have broken through in a way that Cabbage have not. With production by The Coral’s James Skelly and Rich Turvey (who also produced Blossoms and The Coral), Nihilistic Glamour Shots can be seen as an effort to make up some of the ground that has been lost.

Keenly political, there is no mistaking their socialist slant straight from the off. Opener ‘Preach To The Converted’ shows a refreshing self-awareness in its warning against the trend of existing solely within echo chambers on social media, while ‘Arms Of Pleonexia’ bristles with contempt and thinly-veiled rage at a capitalist system selling arms across the globe, asking: “Is it friendly fire if the arms are from home but in the hands of an extreme man?” The title refers to an ancient philosophical concept of a type of greed for what rightfully belongs to others – it is the first in a number of references that will have listeners searching for more on Caligula and Aleister Crowley. Musically, there is a potent mixture of punk and post-punk that captures the same energy that they deliver on stage, a smart move for a band so eruptive live. Visceral and savage, some of the rhythms are reminiscent of early-period The Fall with the same ominous rumble and grumble.

For anybody seeking a response to some of the controversy that surrounded frontman Lee Broadbent last year, ‘Disinfect Us’ seems to approach it head-on. With lyrics detailing: “Human hysteria and vile witch hunts, flagrant disregard for the incident itself” and descriptions of when, “Red tabloids come calling”, it could either be taken as a direct response to the incident or merely allegorical. Either way, it strikes completely the wrong tone and leaves a sour taste in the mouth for me. They move back to safer ground with the likes of ‘Exhibit A’, a great tune that strikes off in a completely different sonic direction with a lighter touch than on the rest of the album and shows that they are more than just fire and thunder. As with ‘Gibraltar Ape’, a Brexiteer-baiting track that stylistically is closer to early Foo Fighters in its lo-fi fuzzy guitars than was ever expected. The Establishment gets another almighty bashing in ‘Reptiles State Funeral’, a beast of a track that feels like the sonic equivalent of Godzilla trampling all over the London palaces.

Cabbage are one of those bands where the conversation will never just be about the music. For the converted, they are a group that challenge and poke at the established order. For others, they are just another unnecessarily sleazy punk band who have spent too much time idolising GG Allin and the likes. Nihilistic Glamour Shots lands squarely in the middle of the two – they are hardly the first band to say selling weapons is bad, yet there is something about the music that pulls you in. What they are probably lacking compared to many of the current wave of bands with similar outlooks is a certain likeability, though, in truth Cabbage probably couldn’t care less about that.

Jamie MacMillan

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