Manchester band Cabbage describe themselves as an “idiosyncratic, satirical attack in the form of discordant neo post-punk”. Verging on pretentious, maybe?
The five-piece, comprised of co-frontmen Lee Broadbent and Joe Martin, guitarist Eoghan Clifford, bassist Stephen Evans and drummer Asa Morley, released “Young, Dumb, and Full of…”, a collection of their EPs, in January 2017. After playing upwards of 100 shows in 2016, the band raised their profile even more this year by being featured on BBC Introducing and supporting Kasabian in April.
It is undeniable that Cabbage are a hard-working band; they sold out the O2 Institute’s third room, at a capacity of 300, fresh from playing the John Peel stage at Glastonbury Festival. Tonight supported by three-piece Doncaster “Punkadelic” band The Blinders and Blackpool punk rock trio Strange Bones.
However, their performance was incredibly underwhelming, and in some instances even boring. During the band’s nine-minute penultimate song, “Because You’re Worth It”, the crowd seemed to lose interest, milling around and chatting to one another. That is until the screeching of a guitar demanded the audience return their attention to the stage.
The band themselves were not dynamic performers, but nonetheless gave the audience what they wanted – a couple of dives into the crowd from both frontmen. The space, which resembled a World War II style air raid shelter, was used well considering all five members had to fit on to the compact stage. I don’t doubt that they would have given a more captivating and lively performance, had the space allowed.
The reviews of Cabbage have been consistently mediocre, to put it lightly, but the band seem to thrive on this; revelling in the fact that their Glastonbury set was dubbed “abysmal” by one critic. Tonight’s set included a few fan favourites: “Terrorist Synthesiser”,”Dinner Lady,” and ended with “Uber Capitalist Death Trade”. However, there was no stand-out high point. Instead, the set seemed to blend into one. This is the problem I have with pop-punk or “neo post-punk” bands: they all sound very similar. Cabbage themselves are frequently compared to other bands, most commonly The Fall and Fat White Family, highlighting my point.
While I wholeheartedly support the idea that it is cool for young people to care about the political climate, Cabbage’s lyrics can come off as cliched; just the title “Grim Up North Korea” makes me cringe.
It is difficult for me to understand why some critics laud Cabbage as a band who say what most people struggle to verbalise, or are too afraid to, when there is little that distinguishes them from the tens of thousands of other disillusioned young people with social media accounts.
There is nothing that Cabbage say with their music, that has not been said one hundred times before, in 140 characters or less. Cabbage do not break new ground with their criticisms, nor do they tackle particularly taboo subject matter. For example, “Uber Capitalist Death Trade” is sometimes used to illustrate how edgy and politically engaged the band are, but the relationship between capitalism and war is blatant, rather than a difficult concept to grasp.
On the contrary, for a band whose credibility and brand lies in being people’s champions, the voice of the voiceless, and other standard liberal rhetoric, they hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons recently, when one of the band (Lee Broadbent) was accused of sexual assault on a young female fan when they supported Kasabian in London in April.
Now, it is important to remember that this is an allegation and an accusation, which the band member, the band and their people vehemently deny, and it is understood that there has been no police complaint. Of course, we live in a country where you are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
However, there has been claims of misogyny by other acts at some alternative and pop-punk shows before, so bands need to be doing more to step up and speak out against this behaviour. Bands need to prove that they can create safe spaces for women and call out men who exhibit misogynistic behaviour.
Back to tonight’s gig; ultimately, I am left wondering whether the band’s use of “idiosyncratic” to describe themselves is ironic, as nothing about them tonight came off as original or new.
It is clear that Cabbage have not yet reached their full potential, and could either slip into obscurity along with the hundreds of other similar, young punk bands, or their relentless work ethic and ‘edgy’ political stance could propel them to greater heights. I would like to see them grow into a more original, distinctive sound, but after this performance, I am sceptical.
By Maddie Flower
Live Photos: Jason Sheldon (from NME Awards tour March 2017)