February 28, 2024

Spiritual Cramp – Live in Leeds – “an underdog drive to do it better”

Live at The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds       8th November 2023

There’s something slightly daft about Spiritual Cramp and also something massively committed. Furiously driven and packed full of nu-punk energy, they are so very into it that it teeters on the edge of playing, something that front man, Michael Bingham, winks at in his gruffly grunted between-song chats. Yet they are so amazingly tight as a band that the whole thing is gripping and I wanted a good quarter hour more than the thirty-minute support band slot they had.

With a recent album out, the band, as free-spirited as they are, have clearly worked and polished the songs and arranged them into coherent blasts of shock-power. There is, of course, Bingham, leaping in the air and thrusting against the mic, resplendent in preppy white wind-cheater and shiny fringed loafers. But there are five more people, all busy. Mike Fenton’s bass is unusual, clear and tuneful, Jacob Breeze’s guitar is scratchy and surprising, with attitude shining out from his poise. The other guitar carries the tunes and, whilst the drums are the only run-of-the-mill instrument, the percussion works just great, thanks to a second percussionist, Jose Luna, sometimes whirling chaotically in a zipped up cagoule with a tambourine.

It’s a busy stage and a busy sound, exploding with fun. So much fun that I left a little way into the main band’s set (Militarie Gun) because they sounded less new and less fun than Spiritual Cramp. I’m backed up by Iggy Pop, who remarked last week that the band sounded like they enjoyed playing together.

Songs were divided between the new record and previous work, with lots of standouts. Michael introduces ‘Herberts On Holiday’ as being about his wife saving his life and scores big on the pop tuneage. ‘Blowback’, the opener encapsulates the bouncy hardcore pop-tinged sound and ‘Talking On The Internet’ is a natural hard-driving hit. With a clever cross-over between hardcore, ska and reggae, some pieces, like ‘Tenderloin’, are a bridge to The Clash’s punky reggae crossover and the influence pops up over and again, but at double speed. Listen, for example, to the choppy force of ‘Better Off This Way’. The band has a hard-working attitude and an underdog drive to do it better.

I wouldn’t have wanted to follow them on stage tonight.

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