Punk rock for body, imagination, and the passions to relish and parade their wanton sides, the vivacious sound of singer-songwriter Ste McCabe has been a constant source of acerbic lyrical prowess and salacious musical enterprise since his emergence. His virulently contagious and biting political pop songs have provoked and thrilled across three absorbing and acclaimed albums, and his unrelenting hunger to gig, but with his new full- length Brains of Britain, McCabe has brewed up a new pinnacle in his creatively mischievous and lyrically striking assault on thoughts and emotions. It is a glorious stomp of punk, art-pop, and electronic devilry, an incitement which never gives the senses and imagination time to lay dormant.
With the vocal magnetism and melodic flair of Pete Shelley, the inventive agitation and social snarl of Mark E Smith, and the infection spewing invention of Pete Wylie, McCabe brews up a presence and sound which is individual yet carries a familiarity to gloriously feast upon. There is an inescapable charm and raw honesty to his confrontations, an almost anthemic call which finds even greater irresistibility and strength within the Maneki-Neko Music released Brains of Britain.
It is fair to say as that as soon as the big bulging electro pulse of opener Fool hits ears a lustful twinge shot through thoughts and emotions, its resonating call pungent bait reminding of Blancmange. It is a forceful and vibrant lure which is lifted further by the distinctive tones of McCabe, his expressive toning as always an easy liking to the Buzzcocks frontman. The initial electro beats soon break into a thumping stride beneath the vocals whilst synths spread a melodic breath and glaze over the brewing abrasion of punk guitars, it all creating an irresistible blaze of electro punk loaded with lyrical causticity.
The thrilling start is continued by Cockroach, a darkly shadowed, post punk spiced slab of provocative expression which features Billy Bragg who superbly alternates his equally distinctive presence and lyrical antagonism with that of McCabe. It is a song which crawls over senses and psyche, bass a lingering toxicity upon which light but scarring riffs and the outstanding vocal mix flourish. There is no avoiding the fallout of the exceptional song, its heavy radiance and gripping drama a lingering spark in thoughts and passions from the very first infestation.
Mantos ’99 moves in next with dark electro flirtation aligned to slight but potent scythes of guitar. It is another song with a minimally dressed landscape and intensive attraction, though it just misses the heights of its predecessors, even with the increasing confrontation of its manner and energy. Again a post punk tempting ingrains the electronic wind of the song for a fulfilling helping of sonic bewitching around vocal devilry but it is soon left in the shadows of The Family Values Song. Imagine Swell Maps in league with Buzzcocks for a far too brief and exhausting but most of all scintillating blast, and you get sense of this riotous treat.
The pair of Chinless Wonders and Don’t We Have Nice Hair spark ears and imagination on new thrilling escapades next, the first a flight across an exotic climate of synth melodies and an evocative narrative painted by vocal variation, both aspects around a spine of heavy pulsation. Glistening before and creeping over the senses it is a magnetic prowl and seduction setting up an already greedy appetite for the second of the two. The track is a punk growl coated in a post punk chill of melodic melancholia. Barely two minutes long but flying by within a blink of the eye, the track croons and infects like a delicious mix of Television Personalities and Magazine with an OMD emotional discharge.
The spiky I’ll Do It sets up its contagion next, again a short burst of electro punk irreverence immediately irresistible to feet and emotions but no more so than the gripping PiL like sonic tempest of Go Polski Boy! Thrusting that caustic sonic radiance into a voracious electro and ravenous trance bred stomping, the track flexes and pulsates with creative gluttony and glorious insatiability. It sets another plateau for the album but itself is surpassed by the brilliant Them There Different People, the most potent art punk song you could wish to be seduced by. With a more than passing whisper of The Vibrators to it and the rawer agitation of 999, the track stomps and swaggers with an almost primal persuasion, leaving ears through to the heart enslaved.
The album finishes with the equally epidemic temptation of What Are You Worth, a track which has control of body and soul from its first predatory bass hook and electro niggling. Also expelling a moment of corrosive energy and sonic causticity, the song is a repetitive and merciless baiting which leaves the release on a high and fingers eager to press start and set in motion the whole thrilling adventure again.
Brains of Britain is easily one of our favourite albums of 2014 but also one of its best. Venomous and naughty, challenging and irrepressibly addictive, Ste McCabe has cast punk alchemy in its most creative and inspirational form. If there is one album you get before the year closes its eyes, it is easy to recommend that it is this one.
Brains of Britain is available from October 20th via Maneki-Neko Music @ http://www.amazon.co.uk/Brains-Britain-Ste-McCabe/dp/B00MU9374A or http://stemccabe.bandcamp.com/album/brains-of-britain
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