As someone who spent three hours of Record Store Day, April 22, looping Manchester’s Northern Quarter, queuing for the vinyl release of Cabbage’s first LP, Young, Dumb And Full Of…, and having happened upon the band in a radio interview one year ago, it was a stirring prospect to see the city’s latest flagship success on one of its most prestigious stages.
The socialist savages have carved themselves a reputation for their fuelled performances, antics and all, which has overtaken the underground punk culture they’ve exposed; a quality which in recent weeks has backfired on their surge, in light of accusations of mid-performance controversy.
This adjusts expectations for their final tour-extension show at Manchester's Academy 2, layering it with implicit questions and an ever-present elephant, coming off the back of Dingwalls, London, and a homecoming set at The Witchwood, Ashton-Under-Lyne.
Jolting the capacity crowd with opening tracks, ‘Uber Capitalist Death Trade’ and ‘Necroflat In The Palace’, the noisemakers brim the room with their acidic energy, as swathes of the youthful crowd clatter and clamour along to the socio-political protest chants; smiles painted across faces. But something feels awry.
While the set is a broad tour of the band’s catalogue, exploring all four EPs via latest single, ‘Gibraltar Ape’, and a new grunge number (name unknown), the typically manic displays feel somewhat sterilised and conscious. Where they formerly had you claimed their own, submitting to the sonic rhetoric, unable to take your eyes off the uncontrollable circus show they unleashed, they now seem aware of the limit line in the sand, falling victim to recent antics.
With a crowd that could be seen to be jumping upon the latest Mancunian pop cult bandwagon, the five-piece are perhaps (inadvertently or not) adopting the mantle of the image and culture that their early noise arguably fought against, as their socialist declarations of inclusivity ironically attract the very Mancunian stereotypes that they criticise.
Recently questioned on Cabbage’s legitimacy, The Blinders, a punkadelic Manchester three-piece serially supporting Le Chou, commented that the criticism of Cabbage’s radio-friendly pop position misses the point, and that it is the very platform the band need, in order to get their political message across.
Cabbage, a band whose song titles have unaccountably more artistic merit than most else, may no longer seem the troublesome bunch that embryonic fans fell in love with, cooking their socio-political quiche, and invading Media City in £1 suits ready to tackle Rad Mac. But a closing performance of first single, ‘Kevin’, is enough for me to realise that they’re the same old crazy we just can’t resist. Cabbage; the band I love, but sometimes struggle to like.