Taking their name from the title of a 2004 album (and song) by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Abattoir Blues are an emerging Brighton-based five-piece at the centre of a bustling local scene that has so far produced some of British guitar music’s finest acts, from The Wytches to Black Honey, Demob Happy and The Magic Gang. Citing key influences from Brand New to Pavement, Seaweed, and even Jeff Buckley, Abattoir Blues describe their own sound as “’80s post-punk with an emo tinge…”, bound together by a fondness for more melodic pop structures, born out of a shared musical love for ‘Madchester’ icons, The Stone Roses.
(Image courtesy of Mike Massaro for DIY Magazine)
Featuring amongst DIY’s ‘Class of 2017’, and favourited by almost everyone who’s anyone on the UK ‘indie’ scene and beyond, Abattoir Blues could be set to make something of a big splash this year, not just in the sunnier climes of their South coast hometown, but certainly up and down the country. The band’s earliest material, including tremorous Soundcloud release ‘Tell Me’ clings to the same sleazy, sludgy punk mix as pals Bloody Knees, and Birdskulls, unforgivingly thrashed out in the cellar come home studio beneath the communal house the band share with members of The Magic Gang, and slacker outfit, Sulky Boy, now termed as Brighton’s booming “Echochamp Collective”
It’s on debut single proper, ‘Sense’ however that Abattoir Blues trade snotty, grunge imbued muscle for something far more ambitious, a sleek, sophisticated, and agonisingly relevant take on mental illness. “Personally for me, it’s a really important song…” says vocalist and chief songwriter Harry Waugh “I‘ve changed the lyrics so many times but the underlying theme of feeling like you’re fighting a losing battle against anxiety and depression has remained the same.” Harry’s openness in discussing his own fight with depression reflects the band’s keen disposition when it comes to speaking out on the things that really matter, whether that’s politics, social frustration or indeed personal struggles.
“Even though we may have been painted as a ‘laddy’ band, we do care about stuff, and we do care about each other, and we do care about other people. It’s not just about getting fucked, or whatever – we do want people to raise awareness of certain things, and engage people emotionally but also intellectually at the same time.”
-George Boorman (guitarist)
Building from the most tentative of guitar lines and accompanied by a thumping, tribal drum roll, ‘Sense’ throbs with devastating immediacy, it’s drawing point Waugh’s impassioned vocals, a steady growl that grows to an exhaustive wail as the song reaches its thunderous climax. Hasty comparisons to George Mitchell’s (Eagulls) bitterly discontented cry are inevitable, but Abattoir Blues find themselves in a league of their own.
(Image courtesy of Emma Swann for DIY Magazine)
As part of a double-A side, released on Brighton DIY label, Cannibal Hymns (Home to newcomers Dream Wife, Our Girl et al.), ‘Fading’ channels an almost cutthroat angst, gang-like chants rivalled only by the song’s turbulent clash of stormy guitars. On the songs lyrical matters, Waugh explains it’s premise lies amongst the dehumanising attitudes directed towards refugees, and the dishearteningly xenophobic ‘scareculture’ that we are so mindlessly spoon-fed by higher powers.
“It’s all about this idea of people being set against each other, rather than actually looking at the real problems that are there that are caused by an actual political system…You see people literally spreading lies and insulting other humans and taking away their humanity.”
Watching Abattoir Blues live last Friday supporting The Magic Gang at Birmingham’s O2 Academy 2, I’d have to say the group were on a par with the headliners (and housemates!) themselves, even if most of the crowd looked upon bemused, expecting another 30 minutes of jaunty beach-pop akin to opening act Paris Youth Foundation. With material new and old filling a seamless support setlist, Abattoir Blues garnered an impressive crowd reaction for a support act of their size. I for one will be throwing all my support behind this band, and I’d whole heartedly urge you to do the same. If they play their cards right, Abattoir Blues could be in for their biggest and best year yet, i’ll certainly be watching…
Words by Joe Bulger
Featured image courtesy of DIY Magazine, photographer unknown