Any good album has a good cover to go with it. Nails rises to the task; the slick black standout of its title marks this Benefits LP debut as a powerful beast before the tracks even start. Benefits benefit from being right at the heart of a cultural storm, knocking back the powers that be and rightly so. North East allegiances aside, the powerful presence shown throughout Nails will be no surprise to those that rallied behind their Flag / Empire Zen F.C. release. How far the band have come and how deserved it is. It is earned through passionate displays of highlighting just some of the vast troubles the United Kingdom is suffering from, the systemic abscess of culture ready to pop.
Pop it does, and Nails provide a nail-biting, extreme gut-punch of an experience. Marlboro Hundreds marks its rejection of hate clearly and offers up a rightfully belligerent hit back at people who don’t know what they’re on about. Droning whines and screeches, peppered nicely with the demand of uniqueness, the exploration of breaking through the fear, it has a barbaric tone to it that begins as venomous but ends as moving and deeply touching. Nails is the screechy, occasionally spoken-word knockdown of representations that are out there, right there in Tyneside, Teesside and beyond. Empire highlights a very specific part of culture that has left a muddled and disgusting modern pastiche of English culture at the front of the line, and shouting against that is an essential part of protest. Nails is more than just protest music though, it is a furious collection of true observations.
Punchy single Warhorse settles nicely into the Nails fabric. Tightening the belt is hard when you’re out of notches, as frontman Kingsley Chapman screeches. Spoken word explosions on double bill Shit Britain and What More Do You Want do well to understand the culture war and how futile it is when people still laugh at Only Fools and Horses. All of this, these cultural jabs and understandings of the country around them, are integral to what Benefits offer here. Nails is a biting experience that does well to utilise anger as more than a tool for noise. Punk brilliance that delves further into the horrors of the country, with a bit of repetition on Meat Teeth that lets out that bile as though it were a therapy session for the stomped-down masses. Take note of the nationalist cosplay in and around the country, Benefits have understood it and its problems definitively.
Nails for those that have experienced the football chants and failure to decry the hopeless and often hypocritical optimism on the scummy surface of the United Kingdom, will feel deeply personal. It is. Benefits have pieced together as strong a collection of drone rock and post-punk tracks as they could and the results are moving, aggravated songs with a point to them all. This is not just a ball of anger, this is a powerful and raw movement that strikes through with necessary, contemporary points. Bad times breed good art and Benefits push forward with a great record. Justified anger in a constant power battle that often focuses on perceived sporting triumphs as the foggy cover for horrid acts. Yard Act are the shot, Benefits are the chaser. Flag marks a masterclass mixture of Acid Klaus and Happy Mondays all with a horrified perspective of the world around them. Both have their hands on the throat of UK living and are tightening that belt everyone has been told to secure.