Cabbage – Live Review EBGB’S, Liverpool 10th February 2017Written by Sean Diamond
Then last month they posted the following message on Twitter….
As someone with a family member who survived Hillsborough, these words resonated with me. They crackle with a fury, a power and a righteousness which grabs you by the windpipe, to the point where you’re literally gasping for breath. It was at this point I realised that they were as 4 REAL as bands of this ilk come; words like this don’t come fucking cheap, this is from the HEART, the SOUL, the MIND, this is Poetry in fucking motion my friends. Cursing my narrow minded aesthetic/Indie prejudices, I ordered a ticket for their February gig in Liverpool, to see if they could walk the walk as well as talk the talk.
“Yeah, yeah, all very well but what about the actual music, get to the bastard point”, I hear you say. Coincidentally, I was just about to come to that. Right, well…. they’ve got a new single out called ‘Gibraltar Ape’. I haven’t a clue what it’s about, nor do I particularly want to know. It sounds a bit like Super Furry Animals might if they sat in a smelly, dusty bedsit all day, blinds drawn, smoking copious amounts of Crack and watching loads of Animal Porn. It’s a depraved, indecent, undignified piece of sleaze which comes adorned with an unspeakably lurid cover, the artwork coming across like a grotesque bastardisation of SFA’s resident scribbler Pete Fowler. Everything about is just cheap, sick, wrong, degenerate and upsetting. I’m convinced that it’s a work of genius. I might be wrong though. It’s hard to tell with Cabbage. They’re possibly the most confusing band I’ve ever come across.
“Yeah, alright, but what about the poxy gig??!” Alright, give me a chance! Yeah, the gig. Of course. EBGB’s is an appropriately sleazy choice of venue, a tiny little den of iniquity located at the bottom of the Heebie Jeebies nightclub. Arriving to the rousing sound of ‘Theme From Rawhide’, the first couple of songs, although competent, don’t really impress. It’s kind of landfill indie, there’s something exciting about seeing the crowd down the front tearing the venue a new one in such sweaty, intimate surroundings, but… I don’t know, something doesn’t quite gel. I get the impression the night is going to prove a disappointment, that my expectations for this band were all in vain. And then….
Of course. ‘Terrorist Synthesizer.’ I was already familiar with this track. How could I forget? This is an ‘Anarchy In The UK’ for the 21st century, unquestionably one of the greatest songs ever recorded. It appears to deal with the short sighted pigeonholing of young radicals on the part of the right wing press, either that or it’s a pisstake of middle class trust fund kids backing left wing causes and movements. Not quite sure. It’s a beyond fantastic song though; funny, fuming and more cutting than a Scythe up the rectum, a prole punk pop piece of perfection. If they’d ended the set after playing this you wouldn’t have felt short changed, it’s that fucking good. But no. There’s more where that came from.
Not long afterwards they let rip with a song called ‘Uber Capitalist Death Trap’, which is prefaced by a fierce rant by the lead singer imploring everyone to “smash the buildings surrounding this venue after the gig.” He sounds like he means it too. Midway there’s a bizarre number called ‘It’s Grim up North Korea’, a really slow song that goes on forever and mentions Dennis Skinner. It’s grimly fascinating, although certain sections of the crowd are voicing their disapproval, calling for something faster. At one point the singer berates someone for asking if they’re from Stockport (“Stockport? Fuck off mate, where did that come from? We’re from Mossley”). Then later they let rip with another secret weapon, the ‘God Save The Queen’ to Synthesizer’s ‘Anarchy In The UK.’
‘Necroflat In The Palace’ is the bravest, most confrontational monarchy-baiting punk anthem since Lydon lashed out at England’s blind faith in its most trusted national institution. It’s an exploration of the conspiracy theory which links the grounds of Buckingham Palace to acts of unspeakable depravity, VIP celebrity parties featuring the sexual abuse of kids from care homes and the molestation of the dead. Whatever the truth of the matter, it’s a powerful, disturbingly catchy punk barnstormer which you almost feel guilty for banging your head to come the chorus, its chilling lyrics expressing a desire to die in the NHS rather than the hideous chamber of the title carrying a horrifying sincerity about them. Like ‘Synthesizer’, it’s also clearly one of the greatest songs ever written. Not too much baggage for Cabbage here, no rhyme intended.
What else? God, good question. Time and space just becomes kind of void at this point, you feel as though you’re on another planet full of Starmen and Starwomen. Former Coral lead guitarist (and now full time solo artist) Bill Ryder Jones comes onstage for another really slow, long track called ‘Because You’re Worth It.’ It’s only a few days later when you realise what a haunting song it is, leaping in and out of your head like a robotic mind frog from the future. Last song they play is the single ‘Kevin’, a sprightly number about a man called Kevin who’s “replaced a corroded soul” that brings to mind the long-forgotten nineties kids show ‘Kevin’s Cousins.’ Probably because of the subject matter.
Then it’s over. Finito. Lights out. Did I enjoy it? Not sure ‘enjoy’ is the correct word here. I feel like my life has changed a bit, for better or worse. I’m also left with the impression that Cabbage might, might, you understand, turn out to be the most important guitar band of the century. I hate making assumptions like that ‘cause, as I said before, it leaves the band with a hell of a lot of baggage. Baggage like this could be the making or the ending of them, there’s no two ways about it. They remind me of Billy Connolly talking about how his Dad used to look at the wireless like there was something wrong with it every time The Goon Show came on, explaining that “I realised it’s not for him, it’s for me.” That’s kind of how I view Cabbage. I don’t really understand them. I’ve always kept a reasonably open mind to changing cultural trends/sounds/production techniques, so when a young band comes along and presents a genuinely perplexing musical headfuck of this scale I can’t help but be impressed.
Hit and miss? Yep. Certainly not as consistent as other chroniclers of urban despair and human depravity like, for instance, Fat White Family or Sleaford Mods. Yet at their best, Cabbage even manage to make these two titans of social (un)realism look slightly redundant. I’m not sure if that’s the intention either. I’m not sure about anything when it comes to this lot, to be honest. Just hope they manage to hold it (reasonably) together, to become a victim of their own press would be a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. I think.
Cabbage can be found on Bandcamp https://ahcabbage.bandcamp.com/ and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/cabbagelechou/
Thanks to Fi Carroll of Dirtyroknroller Photography for kindly allowing me to use one of her photos from the gig. It’s only an iPhone shot, have a look at what she can do with a real camera! https://www.facebook.com/dirtyroknrollerphotography/
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