Benefits – NAILS

A vital record...

Benefits have travelled a long road. The Teesside project initially did everything on their own – from recording to driving the van, and promoting the shows. Somehow, word leaked out. With music this strong, though, how could it fail? Scorching, red-hot rants about the Absolute State Of This Nation, the group tapped into something, into some seething anger that lies just under the surface.

‘NAILS’ distils this approach down to the head of a pin. A stunningly intense listen, it zeros in on the charlatans, the liars, the bullies, the pricks at the head of this rotten state, and decapitates the wholly bloody lot of them. It’s not pretty – influences veer from free jazz to avant electronics, swirling around Kingsley Hall’s visceral word play – but it’s shockingly, strikingly effective.

‘Marlboro Hundreds’ is a bracingly confrontational introduction, laying out Benefits’ manifesto from the off. A song that links the conservative aspects of the British underclass with the crooked Powers That Be who seek to channel their anger, it’s an unrelenting tirade of rage against the warped manner our country has de-evolved.

A dis-United Kingdom in retrograde, Imperial arrogance haunted ‘Empire’ – indeed, the trailing remnants of the Union Jack flutter across much of the project – before ‘Warhorse’ and ‘Shit Britain’ aim straight for the jugular. ‘What More Do You Want’ dares to ask difficult questions, while ‘Mindset’ and – in particular – the lazer-focussed bile of ‘Flag’ stand as true highlights.

A surge of sonic and lyrical ideas, the 35 minute span of ‘NAILS’ condenses this down to a white hot level of accuracy. In a way, this can seem reductive – where is the warmth, the unity that still exists across these communities? Yet that’s not the point Benefits are making – they want to lift up the paving slabs and illuminate the grotesque. During a cost of living crisis, when so many can’t afford to heat themselves… the warmth can wait.

Often compared to sleaford mods – largely spoken word vocals, warped electronics – the truth is that Benefits have carved out their own lane. The music is jet black and unrelenting, a difficult but enriching experience that veers from James Holden to Albert Ayler. Indeed, more accurate parallels might be Darkstar’s exceptional ‘News From Nowhere’ and Kae Tempest’s incendiary 2016 album ‘Let Them Eat Chaos’.

A fantastic statement of intent, one of the cruel and sad facts about ‘NAILS’ is that it could have been released at any time in the past decade, and its truths would still have held true. That it’s become only more timely, is testament to the floundering nature of this Septic Isle. A testament to their ultra-focussed venom, it’s a record that introduces a stunning voice, a righteous message, and further reinforces Invada Records’ place as a pivotal stable for outsider voices.


Words: Robin Murray

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