Boston Manor’s third full-length GLUE is the sound of a band questioning the state of the world around them. Inevitably, in a critical examination of the modern world, it comes from a dark place, but one that fuelled the five-piece to create a body of work that elevates their craft further than ever before. Its 13 highly charged songs came out of a process that singer Henry Cox describes as “very chaotic”, but the result is a truly ferocious album – one that both draws and moves on from what they’ve done in the past, incorporating the gloomy atmospherics of 2018’s Welcome To The Neighbourhood with the highly charged yet melodic punk of 2016’s debut Be Nothing.
Yet while GLUE consolidates the different musical avenues Boston Manor have explored since forming in 2013, it’s very much an album that represents who they are – and reflects the state of the world – right now in 2020. That, Cox admits, isn’t particularly pretty. “It’s a lot more abrasive and a weirder record,” says Cox. “My parents don’t like it as much as the last one, but I don’t think they’re really our demographic, so I’m not too worried about that. It’s just new territory for us. The whole point was to throw away any preconceived notions of what the band is and push ourselves out of our comfort zone.”
Like Welcome To The Neighbourhood, GLUE was recorded at The Barber Shop studios in New Jersey, but with a very different approach to that record. Produced by Mike Sapone and engineered by Brett Romnes, Cox admits that these are not just the most primal and plain-speaking songs the band – completed by guitarists Mike Cunniff and Ash Wilson, bassist Dan Cunniff and drummer Jordan Pugh – have ever recorded, but everything the previous seven years have been leading up to. “This is the start of our band finally becoming the band that we want to be,” he says. “It’s taken us so long to get here, but I’m really proud of us for becoming our own thing. Not once did we think about what people wanted to hear – we just went entirely down the rabbit hole with it. Our only rule was to do what we wanted to do. Even when thinking about playing the songs live, we just decided to figure that out later and move forward with what we wanted to make at that point in time in the studio. And I’m really happy that we did that.”
The result is a slew of finely-tuned songs that robustly and dramatically weave their way through the frustrations and angst the band were encountering at the time of writing the record. By deciding to write exactly what they wanted to write, Boston Manor were able to challenge themselves artistically and creatively more than they ever had before. Bursting with highly-charged emotion, GLUE doesn’t just address and tackle the issues and emotions that have been weighing heavy on and in Cox’s mind, but successfully channelled the roadblocks they faced into some of the most raw, visceral and blunt songs they’ve made to date. There’s the rush and roar, jolt and fire of ‘1’s & 0’s’, a raucous breakneck post-Brexit blast of punk rock vitriol that confronts the increasing divide between the country’s younger and older generations and which Cox refers to as “the rallying cry of the whole record.” ‘Everything Is Ordinary’ – which is about the way we’ve become increasingly desensitized to awful events – and ‘You, Me & The Class War’ are equally full of pointed ire and rage, while the glowering menace of ‘Only1’ and the resolutely dark energy of final track ‘Monolith’ capture the band’s frustration and anger at the world around them.
But there are more tender moments here, too – the almost soulful ‘Plasticine Dreams’, the plaintive, fragility of both ‘Stuck In The Mud’ and the ominous and sinister ‘On A High Ledge’. Both address the culture of toxic masculinity and the prevalence of ‘man up’ culture, which Cox experienced when he was growing up and is still rampant today. And there’s shimmering self-examination of ‘Terrible Love’ which sees the singer confront one of his greatest enemies – himself. “That song is all about me,” he admits. “I’ve never written or talked to myself like that before, but last year I was just in a really, really bad place mentally. I’m still coming out the other side, but I’m really trying to take care of my mental health a lot more in 2020. I’ve never really categorically listed what I didn’t like about myself, and it was very cathartic to do so in this song.”
As cathartic as these songs were for Cox to write, he’s keen to point out that there’s much less of himself and his own personal issues and insecurities in GLUE. Rather, he’s turned his attention onto those things which are most important to him, the things which have been keeping him up at night and were partly responsible for dragging him down to such low levels of mental health.
“It’s about the state of our fucking world right now,” he says. “It’s interesting that the album is going to come out at the very start of a new decade, because a lot of it is about the challenges we’ll face in this decade. First and foremost that’s climate change. Then there’s austerity and the tyranny of big government and big corporations. And it’s also about addiction and mental health, which includes our need for physical validation because we all just seem to live these fake lives online.”
All of that culminates in a bold, outspoken and uncompromising record, one which Cox hopes will be a call to arms for everybody who listens to it – to make them realise they need to take notice of what’s happening both around them and on a larger, more global scale. “I want people to listen to it and feel something and think about things,” he says. “The aim of the whole record is to make people angry. It’s to make them go ‘Well, this pisses me off, how can I change it? What is one thing that I can personally do – that I can start doing today – to make a difference?’ Because we can do better than this. We just need to start.”