The city of Hull has a unique feeling to it: ask virtually anyone there and they’ll tell you it’s the end of the road, a place you only come to if you have a reason to be there.
For that reason – and many others culturally – it remains a petri-dish, peculiarly isolated. But amongst the shuttered shops and endless estates there’s always existed a DIY ethos and a middle finger up towards metropolitanism from those who make music or pretty much anything else there. Forget The Housemartins – this is something completely different.
LIFE’s debut album Popular Music was self-released in 2017, kicking up quite a fuss amongst the very same city dilettantes whom they were showing their arses to. Counting amongst their friends the likes of Idles, Nadine Shah and Slaves, the quartet – brothers Mez (vocals) and Mick (guitar), drummer Stewart and recently joined bass Lydia – have changed tack for their second release, one which the singer claims the focus of is still politics, but this time of the deeply personal kind.
The band also claim to have bottled some of the nervous charisma of early Talking Heads, but aside from the New Yorkers’ dilated mania, little of their dry funk essence is present. Instead, the foursome dole out a sardonic, upcycled take on early Gang Of Four, with Mez their Jarvis Cocker. In places – especially on the furiously catchy lead single Moral Fibre, the lairy words spritzed with a furiously punk-disco thrash, and the lol-packed Half Pint Fatherhood – the breathless jags are just about god damn irresistible.
The backdrop of upheaval and trauma over a six month period in the songwriters’ lives can make you feel at times like you’re eavesdropping. Bum Time, about the stresses and indignity of single parenthood, while the wheeling psychedelic tautness of Excites Me is a lust song for blankness and a moment of risky joy to be celebrated.
There’s a certain sobriety too in knowing that through one cue or another these are not songs about made up victims and waifs, but LIFE’s collective determination to turn experience into thrills means that the likes of Never Love Again, It’s A Con and Grown Up are all mini-epics in their own right, the latter picking up the momentum of a lit firework.
The spoken word finale New Rose In Love takes this angst, paranoia, acceptance and need for expression and turns it into a fifty second tablet of performance art, Yorkshire fire and brimstone from little packets shaken out for the eager and unwashed.
A Picture of Good Health is that record: relentless, seedy, unhinged, partially brilliant, never less than trying to get off its head or into yours. This is the sound of what happens to people who live at the end of the line, the shadows whose options are a tick list of one.
It’s frighteningly real, LIFE.