If I said that the cover art Georgie McVicar’s ‘Failure to Meet Repayment Could Result in One (or more) of the Following Being Actioned Against You’ reminded me of UB40’s ‘Signing Off’ would you hold it against me? The Brummie chancers’ debut pictured an unemployment benefit attendance card from 1980s, while McVicar’s suite of clenched-jaw grinders is fronted by an adapted contemporary loan repayment form. Both are perfectly in tune with their times – the mass unemployment of the Thatcher years in the case of the former, contemporary precariat hustle amidst crushing Brexit-era austerity for the latter.
It’s true that McVicar resists the temptation to craft gimlet-eyed protest songs in the manner of Ali Campbell and the squad. But there’s a kind fatigued euphoria to these asymmetrical, often abrasive cuts that’s reminiscent of reggae’s ability to mix sadness and joy to exemplary effect. It’s also an essential ingredient of dance music in nearly all of its forms, as McVicar well knows. Thus their tunes have the requisite resistance-through-decadence vibe baked into their titanium exoskeletons, even as they avoid four-to-the-floor regularity in favour of bruised, off-kilter rhythms. ‘Σ-1g-M4 (Mnim Mix)’ matches a hobbling kick-drum pattern to a repeating synth cluster whose maudlin repetition drifts in and out of lethargic pathos, like a limping waltz through a deserted ruin. ‘Brom 75 (w/hmurd)’ has a scuffed, nostalgic aura straight out of the Caretaker’s playbook, although its syrupy pulsations emit enough dancefloor side-eye to keep things dreamy.
To be honest, ‘Failure to Meet Repayments…’ ain’t particularly sour, despite its dystopian trappings. A track such as ‘Sird’ may jerk with a corroded motion reminiscent of a knackered shopping trolly rattling across cracked tarmac, but every kinetic twist holds a wary optimism within it. And the Day-Glo dripsody of ‘Repayment 17 v3’ is downright luxuriant, the clumpy percussion adding heft to its skittish, reverberant pings.
Even the abrasive ‘Masz’, whose grey noise burps out like starship debris falling from the sky to flatten some helpless city, can’t help but revel in the energies released by its destructive power. Those grouchy repetitions are as mesmeric as they are bruising, engendering a paralysed boogie in all listeners – proof positive that, in a hopeless situation, all you can do is dance.