Noisepunk Benefits “Nails”: This “shite” cleans the air

England is going down the drain. Meanwhile, the noise-punk band Benefits drives out frustration with noise on their debut album “Nails”.

Portrait of Kingsley Hall, frontman of the band Benefits

Manic punk preacher: Singer Kingsley Hall from the band Benefits Photo: Michael Sreenan

Teesside in North East England. Empty shops alternate with one-pound shops on the High Street of the small market town of Stockton-on-Tees. Closed roller shutters and “to let” signs in the shop windows indicate vacancies. A thriving heavy industry used to provide at least some work in the region, but today, like so many small English towns, the place seems strangely out of date and left to its own devices.

In 2016, over 60 percent voted to leave the EU. The Conservatives have recently been elected in the traditional Labor constituencies. A scenery like from a Ken Loach film, so the first impression.

But if you turn off the High Street, the striking black and white facade of the record store “Sound It Out” greets you. Thanks to a documentary film by Jeanie Finlay, it has even become internationally known and stands as a symbol of how brick-and-mortar retail holds its own against internet giants. A few blocks away is the Georgian Theatre, a ballroom built in 1766, one of the most important independent concert halls in the Northeast.

Brexit and the crisis

“We’re not all royalists and Tory party members here. It’s important that other voices in the country are heard, too,” says Benefits frontman Kingsley Hall, who writes all of the lyrics. People like him are sometimes referred to as “Snowflake” around here. A pejorative term for Britons who don’t want to come to terms with the harsh post-Brexit reality. Government crisis, cost of living crisis, staple food crisis, NHS crisis.

Hall processes the frustration at this country in permanent crisis mode into catchy songs. They bear titles like “Empire”, “Flag” and “Shit Britain” and deal with disgust at the resurgent nationalism, with social divisions and a Union Jack that is supposed to cover up the social cracks. In addition, Benefits play a sound that could hardly be more brutal, ugly and louder.

Microphones seem to burst under Hall’s pent-up rage, drums and synthesizer effects chase after his stream-of-consciousness rants. You could call it aggro punk with a touch of noise. Music that you almost have to force yourself to listen to.

“Our sound is deliberately raw and unpolished, after all we live in rough times. The last few years have been pure chaos in Britain. No platinum throne jubilee, no pompous state funeral, no coronation ceremony can distract from it and hide it. We want to reflect that chaos in our music.”

“I fucking love benefits.”

Benefits from colleagues are celebrated for the directness of the lyrics and the uncouth music. US noisemaker and producer Steve Albini raves: “I fucking love Benefits.” There are also Twitter kudos from the Pixies singer Black Francis and the English grim rap duo Sleaford Mods. In fact, Portishead’s Geoff Barrow is so excited he’s now releasing Benefits debut album Nails on his Invada Records label.

Benefits: “Nails” (Invada/Cargo)

Kingsley Hall still has to get used to the media attention. It’s all a strange range of emotions. He feels overwhelmed by it, he writes on Twitter. “Humble” is what they say here.

It all started in late 2019 when Kingsley Hall teamed up with brothers Robbie and Hugh Major. “There was a period when we sounded like a diet version of Bristol band Idles. At some point we were so annoyed before a rehearsal that we didn’t even get our equipment out of the car and just discussed who we actually want to be as a band.”

During the Covid lockdown, Benefits fine-tuned their concept and sent sound snippets back and forth, and Hall wrote his lyrics on these fragments. He also shot dark music videos in which he screams straight into the camera in deserted places in his native Teesside. After lockdown, Benefits played their first gigs in small indie clubs from Hackney to Hebden Bridge.

Concert at the “Trades Club”

In the “Trades Club”, a former workers’ club in West Yorkshire, anyone who signs the socialist club manifesto gets a membership for £25. A photo wall reveals that every major British band has played live here at some point. As Hall enters the stage, he apologizes for being nervous. All shyness is gone when drummer Dale Frost kicks in, providing the pumping heartbeat to Hall’s spoken-word rants.

The stage is barely higher than the audience, but Hall seems like a giant and surpasses himself with every song. A manic punk preacher, a driven noise intellectual. In addition, a cacophony of beats crackles, and oppressive electronic feedback makes the hall tremble. A musical dystopia. “Formulate your own ideas / Don’t get bullied by hate speech / Ignore cartoon fascists/ Reject hate / Don’t fall into apathy,” Hall yells.

His lyrics are reckoning, manifesto and pep talk rolled into one. And self therapy. “For me, it’s just a way of staying in control. One must remain alert and angry. Texting helps me not get jaded.”

When Benefits leave the stage after a good hour, it seems as if the air in the room has been cleaned. As if all frustration dripped with sweat and beer vapor from the low club ceiling. The almost exclusively male audience lies intoxicated and grateful in their arms. “Cathartic!” says one. You’ve just witnessed a new punk historiography, at least.

“Lefty Woke Shite”

Selfies are taken, Hall signs tour posters and is hugged warmly to sweaty bellies at the merch stand. The band recently started selling t-shirts there with the self-deprecating slogan “Lefty Woke Shite”.

“When I look at the UK music scene and culture industry, I seriously wonder why so few reflect on what’s happening here. The country is going down the drain and hardly anyone seems to care. We’re trying to compose the soundtrack in these difficult times. But maybe we will also convey a little bit of hope.” Hope for better times, after all they have to come at some point.

#Noisepunk #Benefits #Nails #shite #cleans #air
More From Shayari.Page

Leave a Comment