BREVIEW: Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17

Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham Review




Words by Lucy Mounfield / Pics by Aatish Ramchurn

When I last saw Cabbage they were supporting Blossoms at the O2 Academy and, I felt, they stole the show with a brief, explosive set. Now they’ve announced a new EP, The Extended Play of Cruelty, and their biggest headline tour to date. Can the energy of their supporting act scale to a full set?

The venue was the upstairs room at the O2 Institute in Digbeth; a small room, which made for a more intimate experience. The first band on were Strange Bones, a Blackpool outfit who deserve a special mention.

Frontman Bobby Bentham was an absolute madman, jumping off the stage and into the crowd with a technician frantically spooling out the microphone cable after him. At one point he donned a balaclava shouting “BIG SISTER IS WATCHING YOU”, before approaching various members of the audience chanting “behead the despots” Strange Bones - supporting Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham Reviewwhilst waving his finger across his throat in a slitting motion. The confrontational manner of his lyrics matched his onstage presence – it was a cross between a bank raid and a political rally – with Bentham often addressing the younger members in the audience as the future “kings and queens”. He certainly had them on his side by the end of Strange Bones‘ short set.

Next up were The Blinders who calmed things down with their psychedelic guitar focused set. If Strange Bones brutally confronted the audience with political agitation, The Blinders came out with a more reflective approach. The lyrics took the form of poetic musings on life and society whilst the dream-like quality of the guitar produced a trance effect, which in a way deflated the audience who had been provoked into a frenzy by Strange Bones. Consequently this made Cabbage‘s entrance less bombastic, after being lured into a sedative mood by The Blinders.

There’s an elephant in the room. Cabbage have been embroiled in controversy over the last couple of months after it was alleged that lead singer, Lee Broadbent, had sexually assaulted a concertgoer as part of his performance whilst supporting Kasabian. These claims are denied by the band.

The Blinders - supporting Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham ReviewIt’s tempting in these situations either to jump on the Twitter hate train or to leap to the defence of your favourite musicians, but I think we should do neither – we should refrain from indulging in speculation. I mention it because Cabbage made a point of thanking the audience for their commitment in the last “tough three months”, hastily adding that things can “get them into trouble”.

There was an overwhelming atmosphere of reciprocal gratitude and love between the band and the audience. Making such references indicated that perhaps Cabbage had lost a bit of confidence, something I felt with their quiet entrance and slow start, and clearly this allegation (and the negative media attention) has made the band more tentative . But by the end of the night Cabbage were back on form with the energy of the audience seeping into their set.

When I saw them last, Cabbage opened with ‘Uber Capitalist Death Trade’, which is a belter and probably their most recognisable track. This time they opened with ‘Terrorist Synthesiser’ which combines punk sensibilities, thumping drums with a funk edge, proving their dynamic range. They played a few new songs from their upcoming EP, including their new single ‘Celebration of a Disease’ which brought the audience to more of a quiet rumble instead of Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham Reviewthe loud cheering and singing which they did on Cabbage’s more memorable numbers.

The next new song (apologies, didn’t catch the name) proved more of a hit than the official single and could end up a fan favourite with an incredibly up-tempo drum beat and a good head banger. To keep up with the pace, singer Joe Martin raced through the lyrics half rapping them like a Streets song, which was fun but ultimately made it really difficult to understand the lyrics which are an important part of Cabbage‘s appeal.

Joe Martin got the crowd going with his ‘Dinner Lady’ and ‘Kevin’, the lyrics being chanted back by the audience and showing that Cabbage can dissect anything and everything to make a great song that resonates with both the disaffected youth and the beleaguered workforce.  ‘Tell Me Lies About Manchester’ was a particular favourite of the set – the hypnotic chorus and bass rumbled along with ska inflections, creating a fevered sense of anticipation for the frenzied ending. One more song was dedicated to their drummer, Asa Morley, and was a great show-piece for him and his kit.

Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham ReviewCabbage put on a good show. Both front men were dynamic, moving about the stage and interacting with the crowd;Joe Martin did his striptease routine and ended up in just his trousers. And I am pleased to report that the only groping I saw was from the audience, after Martin and Broadbent climbed up on the barriers and everyone in the the crowd went somewhat mad. By the end of their last song, ‘Uber Captalist Death Trade’, it was clear that Cabbage are adored by their fans; a relaxed and confident grin appeared on the band’s faces.

Cabbage‘s new songs may not be as rough and ready but they have shown that the band can evolve musically and challenge their punk roots.  However it can be hard to make out the words in their new material (which don’t have as much bite) and even the performances seemed tame – it doesn’t matter how much you’ve sharpened your rapier wit, if I can’t hear what you’re saying in a crowded room reverberating with amplified guitar chords then it falls flat.

Obviously these songs are new to both band and fans alike, so with practice and time they may well become more defined. Plus it’s all part of being the main act on the bill; I’ll just have to keep going to more Cabbage gigs to find out.

For more on Cabbage, visit

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BPREVIEW: Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17

BPREVIEW: Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17

Words by Lucy Mounfield

On Friday 30th June, Cabbage will take over the main stage at the 02 institute Digbeth, with support from The Blinders and Strange Bones. Doors open at 6pm with tickets priced at £11.50 (advance). For direct gig info and online ticket sales, click here.

This summer the Manchester five-piece are taking to venues across the UK in their biggest headline tour to date, following their recent stint with fellow Manchester band, Blossoms. Coming from the Scala in London (June 29th) to the 02 Institute in Birmingham (June 30th) and then onwards North to the Ritz Manchester (July 1st), expect to see Cabbage to pitch up at some major venues.  For full tour details from SJM/Gigs and Tours, click here.

Cabbage have recently announced their new The Extended Play of Cruelty EP – set for a digital release on July 21st, with a physical release on August 25th via Skeleton Key records. Cabbage have previously released their new single, ‘Celebration of A Disease’, which is out now and the opening track from the EP. The Extended Play of Cruelty EP comes after a short recording session with producers James Skelly and Richard Turvey at Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios. According to a post Cabbage’s Facebook page, “The Extended Play of Cruelty is our revisited conquest to our pop psychological platitudes. The deceit of man tests all in a moment of clarity and we deliver our position in a long search for Utopia. Our blend of fervent disdain is focused on local frustrations, whilst celebrating those who shall rise through the ashes.”

What looks like Cabbage’s thoughts on their The Extended Play of Cruelty EP does in fact read like a cultural and musical manifesto. Certainly, their new single is a seething comment on society’s unnatural fixation with social media that spreads like a ‘disease’ with ‘the corruption of technology’ breaking our ‘dreams’. Deep stuff, but not unexpected from a band who are known  for their politically and socially charged lyrics, and during the run up to the 2017 general election had the words ‘Vote Jeremy Corbyn’ on their drum kit.

The Extended Play Of Cruelty comes hot on the heels of their collection of early EP’s, called Young, Dumb and Full of… in January 2017; twelve songs of hard-hitting post-punk that bubble away with an energy that is not so far removed from The Sex Pistols. However, the darker, more punkier sound is somewhat lacking in their new single, ‘Celebration Of A Disease’ which still retains the heavy throng of the drums but lacks the slicing guitar that made some of their classic songs like ‘Uber Capitalist Death Trade’, ‘Necroflat in the Palace’, ‘Indispensable Pencil’ and ‘Terrorist Synthesiser’. But Cabbage are proving they have a lot more material to give and are by no means a flash in the pan. It will be interesting to see how their new song fares when played live, especially as Cabbage can deliver a ferociously intense set on stage.

(Lucy Mounfield last saw Cabbage playing at the O2 Academy in March, as part of the NME Awards Tour with Blossoms and Rory Wynne. Read her BREVIEW here)

Support band The Blinders are a three-piece alternative group from Doncaster who are now based in Manchester. Combining political punk-rock with ‘psychedelic poetry and tones’ to create visceral ‘punkedelic’ sound, the band seem an equal match for Cabbage’s raw yet thought provoking punk. Equally so, Blackpool rockers Strange Bones are putting a modern twist to punk with their stand out tune ‘God Save the Teen’ – a nod and a wink to The Sex Pistols’ punk anthem.

‘Celebration of a Disease’ – Cabbage

Cabbage play the O2 Institute on Friday 30th June, with support from The Blinders + Strange Bones. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

For more on Cabbage, visit

For more on The Blinders, visit  

For more on Strange Bones, visit


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THE GALLERY: Maxïmo Park @ O2 Institute 05.05.17




Words & pics by Michelle Martin

I do love a good cup of tea. Fruity, spicy or a simple Earl Grey. I enjoy tea like I enjoy music, always open to trying new things.

Admittedly, I know little about Maximo Park. From releasing the debut LP twelve years ago on Warp Records, the Mercury nominated A Certain Trigger, to their latest Risk to Exist LP, the band appeared to have slipped through my music collection. And now I know the reason. As I stand in a sold out main arena at the O2 Institute, with fans and adulation all around me, the most interesting thing in the room is the man in the hat, centre stage. Him, and one audience member who was dancing like a T-Rex.

But as much as I enjoyed Paul Smith’s energetic performance, even his stage presence couldn’t make up for the music. Opening strong with ‘What Did We Do to Deserve This?’ – the second single from Risk to Exist, things fell flat pretty quickly for me after that.

Covering a deluge of work from their twelve year portfolio there were the inevitable ebbs and flows, with ‘Our Velocity’ and ‘Girls Who Play Guitars’ – the opening two tracks from the Our Earthly Pleasures sophomore LP – bringing some ear catching open guitars and much stronger vocals to the stage, more so than I found in their recent work. The rest of the set, which I was free to enjoy sans camera after track No#3, felt forgettable. Perhaps I came to this party too late.

But clearly the O2 Institute audience were having a fantastic time, all dancing and singing along, so I guess the opinion of one doesn’t really matter. Maybe that was why I was distracted by a man in the audience attempting to recreate a scene from Jurassic Park – Maxïmo Park’s blend of anarchic stage strutting and political laced indie rock was definitely his flavor. Although I think I’ll pass on this cup of tea next time around.

Check out a selection of Michelle’s shots from Maxïmo Park from the O2 Institute gig in THE GALLERY below. To see the Full Flickr of Pics, click here or on the relevant links.

Maxïmo Park @ O2 Institute 05.05.17 / Michelle Martin – Birmingham Review

Risk to Exist by Maxïmo Park is out on general release from 21st April, via Cooking Vinyl. For more on Maxïmo Park, visit 

For more from the O2 Institute, including full venue details and online ticket sales, visit 

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ALBUM: Risk to Exist – Maxïmo Park

Words by Damien Russell / Pic by Ed Taylor

Those of you who know Maxïmo Park’s back catalogue will know they are a band who’ve had a little bit of everything over the years: diversity and cohesion, political and emotional, good reception and bad. It would be fair to say that their latest album, Risk to Exist, might be something of an unknown.

The first thing I should say is that this review will contain spoilers. So stop reading now if mystery is something you need in your life before you listen. The reason I say that is that while Risk To Exist has many elements, subtlety is not among them; it would impossible to do any comprehensive review without giving at least some of the game away.

Okay, so the nod to mystique done. Risk To Exist is an 11-song rollercoaster of an album that is instantly recognisable as being Maxïmo Park. Also this is a political record, and it’s clear to see that in the world according to Maxïmo Park politics is in a bad way.

There is a change in mood and emotion in the lyrics as you listen through the record, but also the consistent feeling of dissatisfaction and negativity. Almost at times like moving through the five stages of grief, perhaps missing out the bargaining stage. There is a bouncy melancholy to the album’s opener, ‘What Did We Do to Deserve This’, and the closing track ‘Alchemy’ has a feeling of resignation and being thankful for what you have that rounds the whole thing off nicely. The middle is a melee of anger, confusion and disappointment, with a side order of resentment for good measure.

Of course all of those negative emotions are tempered by Maxïmo Park’s sound and musical style, so an angry song (lyrically) is at times wrapped in a bouncy 80’s synth-pop style; ‘What Did We Do to Deserve This’ is a great example.

That’s not to say the band’s sound hasn’t evolved; through the album Maxïmo Park are both of, and outside, ‘their time’ in equal measure. They capture that early ‘00s Alt-Pop sound and then slide into an 80’s synth-fest, rolling back out again to give a nod towards the rock stylings we all know from ‘Our Velocity’.

It would be overstating to say that the changes in sound are seamless and it would be easy for a casual listener to hear a ‘collection of songs’ rather than an album. But it became clear to me while listening to Risk to Exist that the subject matter brings the whole thing together in a clever way. Although I wonder if the presentation might make this record become dated more quickly, and there are times I found myself listening and wishing that the lyrics had been made a bit less obvious to give more room for interpretation and for me, the listener, to put a bit of myself into what I was hearing. I hesitate to use the word ‘preachy’ but I was thinking it at times; perhaps that will divide listeners, riling those of a different opinion.

I’ve always been a fan of politics and music working side by side, to try to affect positive change. But there is a difference between encouraging unity and positive action and railing against a mood and time that you don’t agree with. Personally I think Risk To Exist has crossed into the latter, which does dilute the message a little.

In summary, Risk to Exist is a good album. Perhaps not a great album, but there are a few tracks on it that I would listen to over and over. My personal favourites are ‘What Did We Do to Deserve This’, which I mentioned earlier, and ‘Work and Then Wait’ – a mid-album track that could definitely be another single, and quite a successful one too.

It will be interesting to see what their overt political leanings bring to the live stage as Maxïmo Park tour their sixth studio album across the UK. Birmingham get’s its first chance to find out on the 5th of May at the O2 Institute, then again at the inaugural Beyond the Tracks festival on Sat 16th September.

‘Risk to Exist’ – Maxïmo Park

Risk to Exist by Maxïmo Park is out on general release from 21st April, via Cooking Vinyl. For more on Maxïmo Park, visit

For more on Maxïmo Park at the O2 Institute, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit

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Words by Ed King

The first time I saw GIRLI I thought she was a joke – a clever pastiche of ‘yoof culture darn sarf’ by a fresh faced character actor in their twenties. Then I saw Milly Toomey stand up in parliament and deliver a cohesive rib dig at the spectre of nepotism and the responsibility of each school to support each student. So… not a joke then.

Today GIRLI (as Ms Toomey is currently standing up to be counted by) releases her Feel OK EP – a three track studio based record, featuring some respectable names from the UK grime scene: Lethal Bizzle, King Henry, Diztortion. Google.

Opening with ‘Not That Girl’, the EP’s lead single that came out in earlier in the year, the most immediate impression is pace. Far from the ‘raucous whirlwind of teenage chaos’ of GIRLI’s live shows, or the electronic cacophony and high pitched vocals of her previous singles, the beat confidently saunters behind an almost patios pentameter. It’s good stuff, clear and confident. And regardless of what you may/may not have thought of GIRLI before, lyrically astute.

The EPs second track, ‘Feel OK’, steps back to a more direct melody based pop rap hybrid. Fair enough, we’ve all got to sell units. But by the time MC Bizzle is telling me about “chilling on a sofa” I’ve started to switch off.  If you can get past the 1min 47sec mark then make your own mind up… and I’m sure that you will.

‘Find My Friends’, the final part of this teen triptych and a three and a half minute monologue on a somewhat darker edge, is the glacier cherry on this overtly pink trifle.

Literally and figuratively walking us through the disappointment of an over hyped house party, dodging dodgy dealers and garrulous egos, GIRLI carries her acerbic torch room to room and out onto the street again. It’s intelligent, witty and recognisable to anyone over the age of fourteen. And whilst this caustic commentary won’t make you popular, when you’re challenging both your peers and the establishment (dressed head to toe in pink or leopard print) integrity can be a useful place to fall back on.

But the joke, it seems, continues to stalk Ms Toomey; GIRLI is out on tour with Declan McKenna later this year, with nothing but age tying them to a bill poster (O2 Institute 24th May).

But I’m older, a professional cynic and not GIRLI’s target demographic on PMR Records’ marketing plan (at least, I fucking hope I’m not) so it doesn’t matter what raises a wry smile from me.

The important thing here is that pop, with all its garish forms of hell sent harpies, may have found a decent female role model – complete with enough strength, sparkles and swear words to galvanise the right people at the right places.

And whilst John Bercow is probably safe from fielding another well phrased tongue lashing, something tells me GIRLI has more significant comments to proffer. By pop record or youth parliament, they’ll no doubt reach us one way or another.

‘Not the Girl’ – GIRLI

Feel OK EP by GIRLI is out on general release from 21st April through PMR Records. For more on GIRLI, visit