Green Party: Introducing Cabbage

Racking up support across the board, politically-minded post-punk outfit Cabbage seem destined for bigger things. Lyricist Joe Martin discusses their craft and what's next for the five-piece

Feature by Bethany Garrett | 31 Oct 2016

Starting out simply as a project to exorcise a collection of songs lingering around, less than a year on from their first gig Cabbage are being heralded as post-punk’s politically-charged, potty-mouthed messiahs.

Picking the brains of the band’s principal lyricist and poet Joe Martin, however, it becomes evident that, despite tackling Donald Trump, the injustice and absurdity of austerity and all the perks of neoliberal capitalist society in their lyrics, the Greater Manchester five-piece haven’t made a deliberate or conscious effort to position themselves as a political band. Instead, as he explains, “It’s just a natural talking point that’s seeped into the music – it’s such a bizarre political climate at the moment, it’s just occupying our minds.”

Martin cites Mancunian poet Mike Garry and punk poet John Cooper Clarke as inspirations, as well as celebrating Irvine Welsh’s knack for the grotesque. He also enthuses about the Evidently poetry night in Salford: “It’s great – you get a different poet every week and then everyone gets to do one poem each on the open mic. It’s on an industrial estate so you get the most bizarre mix of people; all ages, male and female, all reeling off poetry about their jobs or family members or drinking habits. Poetry can come from anywhere really, anyone can do it and it’s unlike music, where you sound like you’re influenced by someone else, because everyone has their own unique story.”

Praising Sleaford Mods for setting spoken word to music, Martin weighs up whether Cabbage’s work should be considered in the same vein: “Sometimes, but equally the music is really important. We spend a lot of time focussing on the dynamics and getting it to be a real slap in the face that builds and takes you by surprise. We like the idea of it being pretty unlistenable at times, especially live, but then it’ll go straight back to something that packs a punch.”

Punchy it is – Cabbage possess the industrial energy and seismic chug of The Stooges or MC5 but laced with lyrics that document the strange and hellish political world we inhabit in 2016. They’ve been likened to Lancastrian brethren The Fall as well as the Happy Mondays (which Joe attributes to “the live attack of the two singers who, you know, do like to move around a lot”) but would rather add something new to Manchester’s luminous musical heritage than emulate past glories. They nail this sentiment with the tongue-in-cheek garage rock of Tell Me Lies About Manchester, which gently mocks and namechecks the city’s alternative musical antiquity while celebrating its colourful characters.

A series of three EPs is underway, all produced by Simon ‘Ding’ Archer of The Fall and apearing via James Skelly’s Skeleton Key Records. September’s Uber Capitalist Death Trade was the first of this holy trinity to be set upon the world, with Necroflat in the Palace (the title track touches on Jimmy Savile’s criminally under-questioned relationship with the Royal Family) and Terrorist Synthesizer (this one’s about our good saviour, Jeremy Corbyn) to follow up before the year is out. The 12 tracks are set to be released collectively on vinyl in December – just in time for the Queen’s Christmas speech.

Not ones to sit still, Cabbage are getting ready to go back into the studio, with Skelly on production duties this time: “We had a lot of angry punk songs that needed to come out. They were quite political, screaming and shouting and he [Simon Archer] was the perfect man to document those. But we’re writing a lot more music and we intend on putting something out at least every year, so we want to explore different realms with a different producer and see what happens.”

Uber Capitalist Death Trade and Necroflat in the Palace are out now via Skeleton Key Records. Cabbage play The Magnet, Liverpool (4 Nov), Stereo, Glasgow (17 Nov) and Club. The. Mammoth all-dayer, Liverpool (21 Jan, with The Fall, Hookworms, Eagulls and more)