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Live / stage review

Working Men's Club at the Leadmill

Brutality and transcendence from adopted Sheffielders, Working Men's Club.

18 November 2021,

Arriving to whimsical sounds of ABBA’s ‘Fernando’, Working Men’s Club appear as a sinister, contradictory presence, emerging through a dense fog onto the Leadmill stage.

An ominous bassline starts to play alongside a thumping, chest-rattling drumbeat. An array of synths build the momentum as lead singer Sydney Minsky-Sargeant prowls the stage. The dark, oppressive combination of electronic sounds build to a climax before suddenly collapsing under its own weight as the 'Blue Monday'-esque opening beats of ‘Valleys’ appear.

It’s not long before Sargeant is in full-on gyration mode. In a white vest and tracksuit bottoms, he twists, thrusts and jerks his body at the audience. Limbs stick out at odd angles as he gurns antagonistically, like a cross between Iggy Pop and Les Dawson. He’s in stark contrast to the rest of the group, who remain mostly motionless, a looming, lurking presence, lost somewhere in the fog.

For all the intensity they transmit, there’s no doubt that Working Men's Club are a band focused on having a good time, albeit in bleak circumstances.

The set is made up almost entirely of songs from their self-titled debut album, recorded in Sheffield by Ross Orton. The sparkling guitar lines and disco rhythms of ‘John Cooper Clarke’ are juxtaposed with a deadpan lyrical delivery, “The luckiest man alive / One day will die”. Sargeant’s howls on ‘A.A.A.A.’ sound both demented and hedonistic. The Andrew Neil-baiting ‘Cook a Coffee’ is almost feral, just about held together by its motorik drumbeat, while set closers ‘Angel’ and ‘Teeth’ sound ethereal.

With no need for stage banter or encores, Working Men’s Club retreat back into the gloom. It’s a set of controlled chaos from a band capable of turning misery and despair into exhilaration and ecstasy.

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