Track Of The Day: The C33s – ‘Harpurhey Hostility’

Surf-rock doesn’t always need a beach. For Manchester three-piece, The C33s, the genre that grew out of the Californian coastline is perfectly suitable for their rattling takes on contemporary life. In latest single ‘Harpurhey Hostility’, turning their collective eye on the area of their home town named “the worst place in England” in a 2007 headline by the Manchester Evening News. Throwing the genre’s snappy guitar lines in with a blast of Anglo punk lyricism gives the band’s observations on deep-seated urban decay all the power it needs to be stuck in your head for weeks.

Dogs bark, a siren wails and a dirt bike engine revs – as introductions go, this one’s about as uncompromising as the song that follows. There’s no gentle lead-in for ‘Harpurhey Hostility’; it’s straight into the riffs, slamming into top gear, replete with a few quintessentially surf yelps courtesy of drummer Judy Jones, who takes lead vocals here.  There’s no verse-chorus-verse either: just twelve lines sung either side of an instrumental section. That being said, there’s an appeal to the sparseness of the lines – reflecting the setting of the song, and its video – and the mentions of local politician and Harpurhey councillor Patrick Karney and “wasps instead of worker bees” are a fond ribbing of Mancunian sensibilities. Pleasantly raw as it develops, the track reveals it owes as much to garage as it does to surf, with kicking bass and blamming drums that only lull slightly to allow for a trigger-finger lead guitar solo, before kicking back in for the song’s final twenty seconds. And, after the music echoes out, it closes out with a magnificent vocal snarl – what else?

The accompanying video opens with a quote from one-time Harpurhey resident, and literary explorer of society’s disenfranchised, Anthony Burgess: “It is as inhuman to be totally good as it is to be totally evil”. It’s a fitting choice – a defiant and seemingly contrarian statement about human nature under pressure, much like the track that follows it. The narrative of the video features three Harpurhey residents, and their activities, culminating in a lager and crisps-fuelled revel. That too, seems a conscious choice by the band (who cameo, offering a fag at a bus stop), almost as if to say that those three people could be them, or anyone, if born and raised in a hostile setting, living off their wits. Fortunately for us, Judy, Cav and Ste play music instead.

John McGovern
@etinsuburbiaego

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