Boomkat Product Review:
Manchester’s Mike O’Neill speaks truth to power on ‘The Binary Order’, a scuzzy raw gob of vitriol produced by Sam Weaver and Danny Saul, leading on from Mike’s cult 2013 cassette for Gnod’s Tesla Tapes
Lyrically taking aim at Arts Council/Trust-funded lightweights, capitalist realism, and the precarious insecurity of working class life, and set to a mix of rugged, lo-fi breaks, visceral electronics and textured field recordings, the record draws listeners perhaps uncomfortably close into Mike’s street-level worldview.
Across 11 songs he grasps the pissy nettle of modern life on a low wage, oppressed by massive, unanswerable corporations and forced to work around a Tory logic that’s at Victorian levels of patronisation and disregard for social welfare - made all the more acute by the fact he hails from within hollering distance of the original slums and overcrowded housing that influenced Marx and Engels’ philosophy. He’s the articulate inheritor of generations of proud, necessary social resistance, the latest vessel for a spirit that runs from the Peterloo Massacre to Emeline Pankhurst, Mike Leigh and John Cooper Clarke.
Most distinctively, purposefully enunciated in Mike’s vowel-stressing Manc accent, the lyrics observe a perpetually gloomy state of affairs with the same poetically rhyming meter, unflinching honesty and conviction that makes his live performances so transfixing. Opening with the rising rage of ‘Bleak Northern Roads’ where he zooms out from street-dealing scenes and increasing food prices, to the politics of whit hall, his voice steady but seething, Sam Weaver’s knackered breaks and atonal, slimy electronics bitterly underline the sentiment, using samples of archaic Monarchistic announcements to punctuate the fury leading into cranky highlights such as the hardcore ’89 style UK hip hop of ‘Breakneck Pace’ and ‘Cultural Capital’ - think The Criminal Minds before they went fast - while he excels at a form of modern folk reality in the narration and inclement, skeletal sonic scenery of ‘Modern Industry’, and the pranged dancehall noise torque and warning barbs of ‘Citizen 107’.
This is not some trendy virtue signalling or detached do-gooder speaking for others, but the anxious, impending everyday reality of Mike’s life and the communities around him. In ‘The Binary Order’ Mike necessarily sees things in stark monochrome - matters right now are glaringly black and white - but the way the production’s lighting and texture highlights subtleties with flickers of One-Stop neon lend it to comparison with the washed out feel of Mike Leigh’s ‘Naked’, and, just like David Thewlis’ Johnny, Mike tells it how it is.