Occupations by Ben Colhoun

Release date: October 2, 2020
Label: Hot Fools Records

The latest release on Hot Fools Records is a solo album by We Wild Blood (and sometimes Casual Nun) bassist Ben Colhoun. Occupations initially stood out for me for its Factory Records-esque artwork created by Colhoun himself, having heard the album it seems incredibly befitting that the artwork would point in that direction. ‘Exceptional Moments’ opens the album and it really highlights the level of tone and atmosphere Ben is bringing to the bands he’s playing in because it just feels incredibly familiar to me off the bat. There’s a post-punk ideology of social commentary in a kind of Palanhuik sense of focusing on the depressingly mundane aspects of our day-to-day lives.

However, it is certainly up for debate thematically as to whether Colhoun’s songs are closer to sloganeering post-punk bands like Gang of Four and PIL or Birkenhead stompers Half-Man Half-Biscuit. It’s certainly radio friendly and kind of kitschy at times in terms of the lyrics and vocal melody, but it doesn’t really connect with me on a deep, personal level. In the same way that ‘Joy Division Oven Gloves’ is a well-written song about how nothing is sacred when it comes to commerce, there are sentiments in these songs that are thought-provoking, but it is ironic that I can’t really see any environment more suitable for these songs than a workplace radio. The songs are catchy and inoffensive, the dichotomy of tackling the prosaic is that it’s hard to take it to a place where it really cuts deep.

I always found the song ‘Joy Division Oven Gloves’ to be aggravatingly hypocritical because it is so beneath the artistry and catharsis of its sonic namesake. It feels commercial, but that is also part of the genius of it. The issue with Occupations is that feels almost as though Colhoun has sunk into the dehumanisation of capitalism and whilst it’s a perfect encapsulation of its subject matter, it feels as though the artist is staring at the canvas of the 9-to-5 life and is painting it in pristine detail without seeing what we’re seeing; a man painstakingly trying to replicate an image he finds totally dissatisfying. This is not to criticise the work in any way. It’s more to say that a self-portrait with the office in the background would ingratiate itself upon me a lot more. It is also worth noting though, that I do tend to mostly listen to Low, early-Marilyn Manson and GNOD because I like things that are intense.

Musically, the album is quite diverse, I think my favourite track is ‘Sample Event (Not Really Happening)’, it’s the longest and most expansive track on the album. There’s an extent to which it feels like the last four songs could be a separate EP. ‘Sample Event…’ is like a weird venture of the record to venture towards psych, but it’s immediately followed by a track that sounds like some kind of dubby post-techno Ian Dury and I’m really into it as bizarre as it is. The penultimate track ‘Transform Your Staircase Into a Statement’ is reminiscent of Ben’s slower We Wild Blood tracks such as ‘Red Mist Rising’ and ‘Osiris’. I like the refrain on this track as well, there’s a kind of mathy sloganeering to it in its deflated delivery of sardonic home makeover show satire. It’s actually nice to be certain that is Ben singing as well because I’ve always had a hard time being totally certain as to which member of We Wild Blood was doing which lines in the past.

The last track is also the best named track on the album ‘Your Nana Makes Me Smell Good’. Musically, it strongly reminds of a track called ‘Untitled Horror II’ by a band no one reading has probably ever heard called Man Eats Plane, which was a band that the members of Wirralien floppy-disk pop-goblins Organ Freeman previously played in. They have no recorded stuff online but, the live shows are still on YouTube and they were really good, in my opinion. Perhaps they were actually fucking shit? I dunno. I digress.

If you like sloganeering, social commentary, comedic lyrics, post-punk and understated, humble perspectives then this is absolutely an album for you. It is what it says on the tin and for that it is highly commendable. It’s not as relentless as the stuff I usually go for, but I could definitely see myself putting tracks on my playlist for The Lexington when we eventually reopen so I can sing “your nana makes me smell good” whilst I clean the pipes under the sink.

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