In conversation with Fergal Kinney of The Quietus recently about his new book on Tony Wilson, Paul Morley noted that the maverick impresario who had founded Factory Records somehow ended up preoccupied with fantasies about regeneration schemes for mill towns in Manchester’s hinterland. He would have loved recent Cardiff visitors, Working Men’s Club – a band born of both Factory’s legacy and the economic and cultural renaissance of the Upper Calder Valley.
Syd Minsky-Sergeant paints Todmorden as a place of imprisonment and stultifying stasis rather than creative liberation, though – at least if Valleys is to be believed: “Trapped in a town inside my mind / Stuck with no ideas, I’m running out of time / There’s no quick escape, so many mistakes / I’ll play the long game / This winter is a curse, and the valley is my hearse / When will it take me to the grave?” The band’s signature single gets an early airing at their Globe gig tonight, its throbbing subterranean pulse and crisp beats offset by house-y synths – a reminder that in the late 1980s one of the earliest and most exciting rave scenes in the country sprang up not in the nation’s metropolises but in Blackburn.
At Clwb Ifor Bach in February last year, Working Men’s Club looked to be poised on the brink of a major breakthrough. But then fate intervened, and here they are, on a Cardiff stage again that is only slightly larger, finally getting the opportunity to perform songs from their superb self-titled debut album to an audience now familiar with them: the punchy dance-industrial block-rockin’ beats of Be My Guest and Teeth, their post-punk tribute to the Bard of Salford John Cooper Clarke, the seething anti-Andrew Neil diatribe Cook A Coffee.
Minsky-Sergeant – the band’s strutting, gurning focal point – revealed in September that the follow-up LP is already in the can, so it’s no surprise that four new tracks insinuate their way into the set, promising a deeper dive into machine music. As a result, there’s sadly no space for their poppiest moment White Rooms And People and its euphoric chorus, or last year’s exceptional stand-alone single X. Thankfully, though, Angel is not one of the casualties, it’s blissed-out motorik Madchester vibes sending the crowd first into a frenzy and then home happy.
Working Men’s Club at The Globe, Cardiff, Mon 8 Nov
words and photos BEN WOOLHEAD