Working For A Nuclear Free City - Jojo Burger Tempest

Every track is an exercise in how far a sound can be pushed until breaking.


Manchester is perhaps the most pigeonholed music scene in Britain. The lasting influence of its musical titans looms large over the city’s new bands and, far more importantly with regard to this review, the critics covering those new bands. On one side, the lyrical, melodic indie of The Smiths, on the other, the druggy dance-rock of Madchester, and somewhere in the middle lie the bellowed anthems of the world’s most famous, now defunct, Beatles tribute act. If you’re a Manchester band, it won’t be long until you’re shoved into one of these key areas, and Working For A Nuclear Free City have been no exception.

Their last two albums were seen as Madchester throwbacks - enough melody to be rock, enough beat to be dance (and probably more than a little narcotic influence to be psychedelia) – with a few new bells and whistles thrown in for good measure. Three years hence, and the band have returned with ‘Jojo Burger Tempest’, an album as indecipherable as its admittedly ridiculous title. No strangers to a double album (their second, ‘Businessmen & Ghosts’ clocked in at just under an hour and three quarters), WfaNFC have crafted a piece that refuses to stay still for a very long time, constantly surprising the listener as it progresses – the furrow they’ve previously ploughed has become (and excuse the tortured analogy here) an entire farm of very disparate crops indeed.

The first disc’s seventeen tracks jump from one sound to another constantly, taking in not only the band’s own history, but Manchester’s full range of historic sounds and far, far beyond even that. ‘Little Lenin’s warbling, math-rock guitar and single, repetitious lyric recalls dance-rock in its heyday as well as its more recent incarnation as a New York phenomenon (see The Rapture, !!! etc.) whereas ‘The King and June’ comes close to emulating one of Manchester’s famous, stomping anthems before literally fading away.

The band’s masterstroke lies in their use of the instrumental; if a track doesn’t need lyrics, they haven’t forced them in. This pushes the album’s eclectic nature beyond an apparent lack of cohesive songwriting and plants it firmly into the ‘experimental’ category – ideas are formulated, enacted and thrown away even within songs; ‘BARRY’ begins as a tribute to Sebastien Tellier’s dance symphony, ‘La Ritournelle’ before breaking up into glitchy fragments and reforming with added cymbal crashes.

Every track is an exercise in how far a sound can be pushed until breaking, and none more so than the title track, a full half hour long and taking up the whole second disc. ‘The Jojo Burger Tempest’ is bookended by crackling spoken word prose and filled with uncountable sonic transitions and references. The result is incredibly satisfying, a mad dash through a band’s entire repertoire of ideas, acting as a microcosm of the album as a whole. The sheer oddness and audacity on display here is genuinely inspiring, a wake-up call to an industry and critical establishment that more and more heavily relies on simplistic terms of reference to describe bands.

Taken as a whole piece, ‘Jojo Burger Tempest’ could be seen as a massive ‘fuck you’ to the music press, a kickback against pigeonholing. However, it could just as well be band having fun, revelling in their own capability to make whatever music they want. This is overwhelming, incoherent and occasionally insane stuff and, frankly, God only knows what they’re up to, but all we know is that we like it a hell of a lot.

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