Few new bands can split opinion quite like Cabbage. To some, their outspoken, sweat-laden live shows are a thing of wonder, resolutely belching in the face of both fashion and right wing politics. To others, they’re simply shit; often offensive wannabes whose post-post-post-post-post-punk is long since past its bedtime.
So are they the New Great Guitar Hope or simply turds from the toilet circuit?
The truth is that debut album ‘Nihilistic Glamour Shots’ doesn’t easily fit into either of those boxes; sure, parts of it are offensively (almost objectively) bad, but then aspects of it are actually done pretty well, even if they aren’t actually done often enough.
Let’s start with the positives. James Skelly’s production, for one, is typically well executed, with the few flourishes on show amid the guitar punk squelch (those wiry single line melodies on ‘Perdurabo’ or the brown acid psychedelia of ‘Exhibit A’) adding new colour and nuance to an often limited, stripped down sound.
That sound itself can sometimes be an overwhelming beast. ‘Molotov Alcopop’ is a stuttering piece of Cramps-esque fury, the sloping bassline spurring on a demonic vocal from Lee Broadbent. ‘Obligatory Castration’ is a ruthlessly formidable noise, reminiscent of early Jesus and Mary Chain in its ability to channel a chainsaw echoing through a ruined Marshall amp.
All too often, though, ‘Nihilistic Glamour Shots’ is simply forgettable. The music is drab, the guitar riffs leaden, and the vocals confused, crossing the line from intoxicating hysteria into arenas of blind adolescent screeching, a howling rage so confused it sometimes forgets what it’s actually on about.
‘Reptiles State Funeral’ is a total misfire, a grinding, groaning mess that makes its point and then lingers long after its welcome is out-stayed, while ‘Postmodernist Caligula’ has the good grace to introduce some brevity amidst its completely nonsensical Mark E Smith impersonation.
Closing track ‘Subhuman 2.0’ helpfully compiles many of the record’s more satisfying moments alongside its glaring faults. The deft production is both minimalist and imaginative, conjuring a kind of weird, paranoid, speed-freak comedown. The song itself, though, goes absolutely nowhere, a lumbering leviathan that loses all energy within two minutes and carries on for another four, hauling itself in tortuous, ear-bleeding fashion towards the finish line.
It’s not that ‘Nihilistic Glamour Shots’ is some objectively terrible record, but it’s certainly not a great one. The music isn’t minimal, it’s mundane, a songwriting stodge that seems content to play in its own filth. Cabbage have done enough as a live force to earn their shot, but it feels wasted, miles off target.
There is definitely room for a noisy, desolate guitar album in the UK right now, an album to re-define what you could loosely term indie rock as a force for sonic insurrection – tragedy is, though, this simply isn’t it.
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