Music Reviews

ALBUM REVIEW: Working Men’s Club – Self-Titled

By Jacob Thompson 

Yorkshire post-punk techno rockers Working Men’s Club released their first LP on Heavenly Recordings. Produced by Ross Orton (The Fall, M.I.A., Arctic Monkeys), this self-titled debut is a rallying cry against the boredom of mill-town life in the Northwest of England, and manages to find a surprising amount of variety in its synth-drum soundscapes without ever losing the sense of identity that marks its Todmorden origins.

This is in no small part thanks to 18-year-old frontman Syd Minsky-Sargeant. Working Men’s Club formed in 2019, and Minsky-Sargeant is the last of the original cohort left. He is joined by Liam Ogburn on bass, Rob Graham on guitar and synth, and Mairead O’Connor on guitar, keyboards, and vocals. Together, they provide a punchy, bass-driven sound, though Minsky-Sargeant’s vocals are the grumbling undercurrent that fuels most of the tracks here.

Opening track Valleys flexes these muscles immediately, drawing out an industrial sound with a heavy vocal thrum that lends the opening of the album a brooding industrial quality. Everything here is defined by the West Yorkshire landscape; valleys, hills, and empty mills, red-brick warehouses and the rusting pipes within. There’s an ever-present sense of frustration in Minsky-Sargeant’s lyrics, a yearning for something more than the decrepit mill-towns, swept up in hopeless optimism and inevitable pessimism.

White Rooms and People and Outside are two tracks that really hit the paradoxical nature of this desperation, opening up the grungy bass of the gloomy Valleys and acidic A.A.A.A to sky-high funk riffs and mellow lyricism. The positive spaces these tracks sweep through are all tinged with a melancholic edge, a mellow comedown after the trance-like poetics of John Cooper Clarke, itself full of echoes of The Durutti Column and New Order, Graham and O’Connor working wonders with their loops and reverb.

Working Men’s Club work best when they’re letting their own identity flourish beyond their influences, and the album is tightly produced, always holding back just enough as not to be overbearing. But it’s when this strong identity is ignored that the album suffers; tracks like A.A.A.A and Be My Guest suffer somewhat for a lack of focus, whilst mercifully short Cook a Coffee is so on-the-nose punk that it feels more like a child of imitation than inspiration.  

Despite these missteps the album ends on a high, Tomorrow’s Gordon Gano-esque nihilism building up to the sinister and energetic Teeth, a pacy hi-hat racer leading to a frenetic climax that could easily serve as the album’s final track. Instead, we get Angel, a twelve-minute bumper that somehow justifies its place. This is a gig song recorded with a crowd in mind, and when Minsky-Sargeant’s lyrics disappear beneath Ogburn’s bass we are flung into a thrashing finale, at once a rebellion against and celebration of tiny venues in tiny towns everywhere, a mosh-pit in a local boozer, flung pints and trampled feet and all.

Working Men’s Club make a strong impression with this debut, and together with Orton they have produced a powerful statement piece. Though at times their sound veers close to feeling like an echo of what has come before, the oft-forgotten youth of England’s Northwest will no doubt find much to love here, and perhaps even some hope for the future of their scene.

@JacobBaggins is a Manchester-based music journalist and former #fusefm radio writer.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Sen Morimoto – “Self-Titled”

By Jacob Thompson

Sen Morimoto’s third album landed from his own Sooper Records this month, and it is written, performed, and produced by the man himself. The self-titled LP is a lo-fi trip-hop jazz fusion of saxophones, reverb, and melancholy rap, running a whopping fifteen tracks in total. Following on from his 2018 breakout Cannonball! and March 2020’s more relaxed B-Sides and Rarities, Morimoto has attempted to bring his many influences and instrumental skills together here, to varying results.

Some of the best tracks on offer are the openers; “Love, Money Pt.2” and previously released single “Woof” are both tight, soulful tunes, the former providing a smooth introduction with a fast-paced, upbeat snare rhythm track overlayed with lilting sax, the latter brimming with small-town frustration, big-city woes, and slick guitar, a through-line of descending keys adding momentum to Morimoto’s melancholy bars. “Symbols, Tokens” is also a strong track; funky keys and tight drum samples build to a fantastic central refrain.

A multi-instrumentalist at heart, Morimoto performs most of the album himself on sax, keys, bass, and vocals, bringing in the occasional guest, with Ryan Person covering drums. Morimoto is a man of many talents, though sometimes it feels as if he’s trying to do too much at once, taking his layered approach so far that these layers can begin to clash. “Taste Like it Smells” is one such overcrowded misfire, with guest appearances from Lala Lala, Kara Jackson, and Qari all lost amongst a barrage of keys, snares, and samples that never manage to fully mesh.

What could be anthemic instead ends up being overdone and overlong, and this is something that happens again in “Daytime but Darker” and “The Box” ft. Joseph Chilliams. “The Box” suffers especially, with Chilliams wiping out the otherwise smooth soulful vibe with comedic bars that sully the sensual, pacy rhythm of Morimoto’s own slick bass and vocal work.

Make no mistake, Morimoto can utilize guest vocals to great effect. “Butterflies” ft. KAINA and “Deep Down” ft. AAAMYYY are both standouts, with KAINA providing an ethereal edge to the pounding bass of the former and AAAMYYY lending a heady sense of longing to the latter with her soulful Japanese vox. Morimoto is strong enough to stand on his own two feet too, showcasing his vocals in “Save” and “Wrecked” over less busy compositions.

Closing tracks “Nothing Isn’t Very Cool” and “Jupiter” give a rounded sense of Morimoto’s slip-ups and strides. “Nothing” once again struggles with a confusing opening that later finds its feet in a fusion of barbershop, layered rap, and grungy, distorted guitar, whilst grand finale “Jupiter” recounts the artist’s musical journey beneath elevated and airy samples, strong guitar riffs, and beautiful Wurlitzer keys. 

The lyricism in the closing song is especially strong and speaks to Morimoto’s best qualities. His sound is unique, his production is variegated, and he’s willing to experiment with fusing genres in a way that few are, pulling together many elements of the Chicago scene into something authentically new. Sometimes, as in “Woof,” “Save”, “Butterflies” and “Deep Down”, it works. It’s only when it doesn’t—like when he tries too much too fast—that it feels as if a tighter, more reigned in approach could have served this album better.

@JacobBaggins is a Manchester-based music journalist and former #fusefm radio writer.

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