Release Date: Feb 5, 2016
Record label: Melodic
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance
The Beta Band were brilliant. They existed in their own electronic netherworld and when they split, Steve Mason forged a solo path that continues today.Now on their fifth album, Manchester outfit Working For A Nuclear Free City (try fitting that on the front of a T-shirt) have picked up the frazzled, lo-fi Beck-ish baton, and while they're not running, they're definitely swaying. Opener 'Bottlerocket' sounds like Mani at his best is powering the bassline and the trippy 'Ordinary People', like the Betas before, is as weird as it's wonderful.
Five years ago, Working For A Nuclear Free City released Jojo Burger Tempest, an epic kaleidoscope of psychedelic drum loops, found sound samples and groove -burrowing basslines. What Do People Do All Day? Initially gives the impression that little has changed; Bottlerocket starts with snippets of television channel chatter, before funky bass struts into your skull, metallic guitars rattle a rhythm over household percussion and a softly-spoken Beta Band-esque sing-rap calls out streams of non-sequiturs before calling us all to “stick together”. Elsewhere, songs build on tumbling drums that could have been cribbed from Caribou’s back catalogue while ambient passages give some space and relief.
Versatility has always been a friend of Working for a Nuclear Free City. The Manchester-based band have always proved difficult to pigeonhole – moving quickly and swiftly between genres and similarly to Newcastle’s Field Music, gaining a significant cult following for their bold inability to settle into typecast while ploughing rich pop furrows. However, the greatest issue affecting their last album (2010’s Jojo Burger Tempest) was coalescing such a swathe of ideas into something that stands up under its own merit of songcraft and not just through the kaleidoscope of variety; something they managed on their self-titled debut record but have struggled for ever since.
An unwieldy moniker they may have, but Manchester’s WFANFC have always peddled a neat line in intelligent indie pop, not afraid to bounce around a little. And having maybe split up then perhaps not, they’ve returned with a record in which Madchester beats and quirky harmonies float amidst Richard Scarry technicolour (whose slightly satirical artwork depicted towns of animals enacting the mundanity of adult day-to-day for young minds to assimilate). Befitting a Scarry illustration, there’s plenty of detail behind What Do People Do All Day?, from the space hopper bass of opener Bottlerocket and Motown stomp underpinning Turned Too Tight, to more reflective narratives reminiscent of The Beta Band’s less flashy material.