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Album Reviews: Chubby and the Gang | The Mutt’s Nuts

The British punk outfit's second set mixed hardcore punch with pop melodicism.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “West London five-piece Chubby and the Gang are balanced by two energies — a casual “fuck it” on one side, an active “fuck off” on the other. For every moment of punk imperfection, there’s an intricate flurry of detail. For every enraged statement about modern life as war, there’s a lyric like “Hello heartbreak, my old friend” that catches you off guard. Made up of musicians from across the consistently thriving and criminally overlooked U.K. hardcore scene (The Chisel, Big Cheese and more), Chubby and the Gang marinate their characteristic speed and sick-of-it-all energy in a mixture of ’50s pop sounds. The result is a prickly take on the older, more melodic genres that punk derives from, chewing them up and spitting them out into something mangled but revitalised.

Fronted by Charlie Manning Walker (aka Chubby Charles) and backed by Tom ‘Razor’ Hardwick, Meg Brooks Mills, Ethan Stahl and Joe McMahon (aka The Gang), the band tell stories of modern London on their much-anticipated second album The Mutt’s Nuts. Look no further than first single Coming Up Tough — part snapshot of modern London, part punk rager about government failure and the school-to-prison pipeline. It comes from frontman Charlie’s own experience.

He explains: “Coming Up Tough is about a family member of mine who ended up going to prison at a very young age for over 20 years. He went in as a kid and spent most of his life in the system. Where’s the justice in that? You come out and have to prove yourself to a world that shut you away — what chance do you have? There’s no attempt at actual rehabilitation, no empathy, just a cage to be forgotten about. I wanted the song to feel like a snowball effect. The character gets thrown out of his house at first and it feels almost juvenile, but then as it progresses you realize the real trouble he’s in. And too often once you’re in trouble you can’t get out.”

Charlie has lived in West London all his life and works full-time as an electrician; in fact, most of the band work trade or artisan jobs. As a result, the songs are inherently political, rather than political by design. Alongside classic rock ’n’ roll themes of love and loss, the lyrics are rooted in workers’ rights, inequality, police brutality, government failure and gentrification — issues that are built into the fabric of the U.K., and magnified in the English capital. Despite the chaos of these inspirations, Chubby and the Gang’s music is straightforward and (for a hardcore band) accessible. While not all of the influences are apparent — they’re infinite, and range from Hank Williams to The Bobby Fuller Four to Skeeter Davis to Lightnin’ Hopkins to Brooklyn-based ’50s girl groups to British blue-eyed soul and Merseybeat — they do manifest in the band’s obvious appetite to do something different, something exciting.

The Mutt’s Nuts follows the band’s surprise 2020 critical hit Speed Kills. Thanks to an unrelentingly fun concoction of hardcore, pub rock, doo wop, and blues, the album cemented them as leaders in a pack of new bands coming out of a new wave of British hardcore. The Mutt’s Nuts was produced by Jonah Falco of Fucked Up.