Cabbage at The Sugarmill: Review

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Ahead of the release of their debut LP, Cabbage’s sweat-fuelled performance showcased why they are fast-becoming one of the most important bands in the country.

At a time when society seems constantly at war with itself, Cabbage delivered a powerful message on Friday night: few things unite people like live music.

‘Arms of Pleonexia’ opened the Manchester band’s set, and beneath its brash political overtones, in the hook lay pertinent social commentary, “How long until we take responsibility?”

This is the cornerstone of the band’s work to date. A combination of punk, indie hooks, crude political humour – and at times, bordering on incomprehensible vocals – herein lies the true voice of a disenchanted youth.

And from the very first chord, this young crowd were brothers and sisters in arms, united if only for a moment. Increasingly divided into sub-sections in this social media age, a real sense of community was formed in an instant.
The plague of camera lights, which besets upon the most charismatic of bands, non-existent from the outset.

‘Pleonexia’ was followed up with ‘Necroflat in the Palace’ – a political skit based around heinous portrayals of the Royal family and Tony Blair. Yet, with its Maximo-Park-inspired, chest-banging chorus, “I was born in the NHS, I wanna die in the NHS…”, it sticks to the well-defined Cabbage blueprint.

From the outside looking in, this may appear crass; but this is music for people with instinctual, tribalistic, views. Political nuance replaced by anger and delusion – and every word is felt as much as the last.

A double-header of ‘Fickle’ and ‘Indispensable Pencil’ proved crowd-pleasers, as sweat dripped from the rafters. A mosh-pit-laden crowd with a tenacious energy, that refused to come up for air.

‘Fickle’ with its reference to “the motherland, Le Chou” — translating to having a foot in both camps — suggesting that the worst people, in current times, are those that stand for nothing at all. ‘Indispensable’, meanwhile, plays like an ode to Warsaw-Ian-Curtis, archetypal late-70s punk with a distinctly Mancunian twang.

Halfway through the set, Cabbage unleashed their singalong anthem ‘Terrorist Synthesizer’, a jibe at allegations of terrorist sympathies on the left. A song lavished in humour, centred around several caricatures – far-from-perfect-Peter, Speedo-wearing-Steven – and a MIDI keyboard.

Cabbage put on an energetic show for the Stoke crowd. Photo by Chris Hollingworth.

Preparing for the March release of their LP, ‘Nihilistic Glamour Shots’, Cabbage showcased several tracks from the upcoming album. But the usual new-song-lull that beholds all gigs did not appear here. A notable line from one impending fan-favourite, “I’m not gonna waste my potential”.

Betwixt these tracks lay the band’s most humorous songs, ‘Dinnerlady’, ‘A Network Betrayal’, and ‘Dissonance’. But it was ‘A Network Betrayal’ that took centre stage, and spoke of the band’s growing maturity as songwriters.

With a John Cooper-Clarke-style intro, lambasting the pay-rise of the head of Southern Rail, the band’s flurry of noise with a hidden agenda was shelved, in favour of a more coherent stream of consciousness. Written largely from the perspective of the “blissfully unaware Partridge” train conductor, this song points to Cabbage elevating themselves to even greater heights.

Perhaps the effect of supporting Kasabian in 2017, the influence of Serge Pizzorno was certainly etched across the live version of ‘Tell Me Lies About Manchester’. The album version’s gritty bass replaced by a subtle club beat, tying in perfectly with the line, “fill my ears with a Hacienda classic”; giving this six-minute-epic a rejuvenated party feel, befitting of the mood encompassing the venue.

To close the show, it could only be ‘Uber Capitalist Death Trade’. The most bizarre of frenetic singalong-choruses. This is the song that earmarks Cabbage as something special.

The pent-up frustration of youth, finding a home through the cathartic aggression flooding through three-and-a-half minutes of pure political rage, mixed with all-too-familiar comedic timing. The packed-out crowd soon became engulfed in a swirling ball of energy, as the song built to its angry crescendo, before descending into bedlam.

The older amongst the crowd could only stand and nod approvingly, as the kids fought their way to the barrier to be with their friends, and to be part of something larger than themselves.

The Kids Are United – and they are angry. This is punk for the Jeremy Corbyn generation.

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