Chubby and the Gang – ‘The Mutt’s Nuts’

By Tom Walsh

“Welcome to the Chubby and the Gang show,” Charlie “Chubby” Manning-Walker proclaims as the final bars of opener ‘The Mutt’s Nuts’ ring out. For the British punk scene of 2021, there really is only one show in town, and it’s the West London beatniks with their unique in-your-face sound.

Springing seemingly from nowhere, Chubby and the Gang have grabbed Blighty by the throat over the last 18 months. Just like a boxer delivering a disguised uppercut, their debut record ‘Speed Kills’ – released in early 2020 – caught everyone off guard. It garnered fawning praise from big hitters such as Pitchfork, the Guardian, and NME, and led Manning-Walker to joke at a recent basement show in Leeds that “everyone thinks we’re an indie band now”.

Buoyed by the backing of a rabid fanbase and a critical nod, Chubby and the Gang were primed to hit the road and rattle the absolute shit out of this record to the masses. Then again, this was 2020… Back in their cage they went, working manual labour jobs, and building up the anxiety, the anger, and the grief to unleash an absolute humdinger of a follow-up into the bright lights of ‘post-Covid’ England.

‘The Mutt’s Nuts’ is confrontational, nostalgic, reflective, often boiling over into fits of rage – all curated by Manning-Walker’s signature vocals. While Chubby and the Gang could be placed into the “new wave” British hardcore canon, there is something so different about their sound, something that is quintessentially English. Manning-Walker’s West London drawl makes it easy to draw comparisons to the likes of Sham 69 and Cock Sparrer. Tracks like ‘I Hate The Radio’ and ‘On The Meter’ are stacked full of Cockney slang that will have the old guard of punk shows in backroom boozers nodding their head to every beat.

Alongside the thrashing, balls-to-the-wall tracks, there are slower moments. The crooning ‘Life’s Lemons’ sounds like a throwback to the cabaret clubs of provincial towns in the late-1970s, while ‘Life On The Bayou’ invokes the blues with an incredible piano accompaniment. The sludgy ‘White Rags’ sounds like a mix of ‘Legacy of Brutality’-era Misfits moulded with the swaggering groove of Dwarves, as Manning-Walker growls about police brutality.

Lyrically, Chubby and the Gang take one for the working man. There are fiery rebuttals of over-zealous law enforcement (‘Getting Beat Again’), social inequality (‘Lightning Don’t Strike Twice’), the UK’s archaic justice system (‘Coming Up Tough’), and the general drudgery of living in a society where the vast majority of your paycheck goes to a slum landlord (‘It’s Me Who’ll Pay’).

In a country where masses are feeling constantly fucked over by a government whose only purpose is to enrich themselves, their donors, and their mates, with zero accountability, a record like ‘The Mutt’s Nuts’ will resonate hard. It feels like something made for our times, and for the youth who’ve been looked down on by those that think they know better.

In essence, this is a record that reflects the mood of the English youth of 2021. Chubby and the Gang articulate the struggles, frustration and anger of what could be a lost generation to unchecked government power and greed. It’s the arms out “what are you gonna do?” attitude that everyone feels when they’ve been kicked around so many times.

The past 18 months really have felt like the Chubby and the Gang show and, as they laid out in ‘Speed Kills’, they won’t shut up, not for you, not for no-one. They aren’t going anywhere any time soon, so go and tell your friends – the gang’s storming through.

TOM WALSH

Three more album reviews for you

Angels and Airwaves -'Lifeforms'

Thrice - 'Horizons / East'

The Plot In You – ‘Swan Song’