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Review⁄⁄: Benefits/Straight Girl - YES Pink Room, Manchester 25/11/22

Benefits/Straight Girl - YES Pink Room, Manchester 25/11/22

Straight Girl ("the joke is I'm not straight and I'm not a girl") banged out a set of thumping electronics with elements of 90s rave, hard trance electro and even some trap beats on the closer. They topped the noise off with occasional soaring vocals or Peaches-style sleaze-rap and weren't afraid to get into the crowd to (good-naturedly) intimidate the straights and do a few gymnastic moves on the cold concrete floor. By the end there was a lot of well-deserved love in the room.

Benefits' first rock'n'roll move was winding up the tension with stark green lights and a bit of Scott Walker before they emerged from the back door. From the start it was clear they had hit the jackpot with new drummer Cat Myers, who was an absolute force of nature. The opener was an instant gut-punch cycling through elements of power electronics, free noise and grindcore with Kingsley voguing and declaiming up front. Much talk is made about the current rash of 'bloke shouting' acts but it's clear Kingsley is coming from a more poetry/performance angle than some of the obvious comparisons. They did the hits but the pace did vary into almost classic punk at a couple of points and slowed to a downbeat hip-hop groove for central turning point "Shit Britain" (cruelly overlooked by the FA as England World Cup song). Despite the clear theme of "we live in a shit country full of wankers, run by cunts" there is an explicitly stated message of hope. The phrase "We will win" is repeated and Kingsley addresses us all directly to push the message home. His expression of his own anxiety and vulnerability just brings people together more and reinforces the rallying cry. Then he introduces the band, Vegas-style, and calls us all "corporate rock shits" who need to admit to our love of Motley Crüe. Life-changing 'you had to be there' punk rock gig? Dunno about that, but it was a great and inspiring night. Just need to get the chorus to "Girls, Girls, Girls" out of my head.