Bad Breeding : Contempt

Bad Breeding Contempt review

Formed in Stevenage, in southeast England—a neglected satellite town of London—Bad Breeding have made a name for themselves over the past decade as one of the UK’s most blistering anarcho-punk bands. In keeping with their genre moorings, their music is driven in large part by their left-wing politics, which is front and center in their critiques of the policies of the UK’s (hopefully not much longer) governing Conservative Party. Their first four albums were dominated by hard, fast, unsubtle punk songs that moved at a breakneck pace and rarely breached the three-minute mark, with the odd smattering of five-minute-plus epics. Their fifth album, Contempt, broadly speaking continues in this vein, but it sees the band experimenting with slower, more complex song structures than those which have been on show throughout much of their discography. It’s also their longest album yet, at 37 minutes.

“Temple of Victory” opens the album effectively, with Idris Mirza’s guitars sounding noticeably more melodic than any of those on previous album Human Capital, but with Christopher Dodd’s vocal delivery sounding every bit as angry as it did on that record, if not more so. “Survival,” “Devotion,” “Liberty,” and “Retribution” all smash along at a terrific pace and sound fit for explosive live performances. In addition to the greater focus on melody, Mirza also shifts time signatures a lot more frequently than Angus Gannagé did on Human Capital’s songs. The slower “Discipline” incorporates brass into its instrumentation, which might in the abstract seem like an odd decision for a band concerned more with aggression than nuanced arrangements, but it works surprisingly well, adding an extra level of thickness to the band’s sound.  

While there are more slower, longer songs on Contempt than on any previous Bad Breeding album, this subtlety is not matched by the singing of Dodd, who doubles down on the anger and venom with which he barked out Human Capital’s songs. The band’s third album, 2019’s Exiled, was accompanied by a press release that extolled the virtues of “hate” as “the only energy that can sustain you in increasingly brutal times,” and you really get a sense of how this band employ that very feeling as a driving force from the terrifying way Dodd yells out the lyrics to songs like “Gilded Cage / Sanctuary,” “Vacant Paradise,” and “Idolatry.” The epic closing title track features a lot of flange work on the multi-tracked guitars, starting off slowly before building towards a satisfyingly noisy climax. It’s a terrific way to end the record.

While Contempt isn’t quite as tight as Human Capital, which for my money remains Bad Breeding’s best album, it’s not far off that high-water mark. Just as Human Capital made for a great soundtrack to the collapse of the Johnson government in the summer of 2022, so Contempt will hopefully make for a similarly fitting soundtrack heading into another potential regime change.

Label: One Little Independent

Year: 2024

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