Chubby and the Gang’s Speed Kills was a joyous debut—one of the most unrelenting rock’n’roll albums of 2020 stuffed with upbeat Oi! rippers that all hinged on the band’s law-defying self-mythology. The London band’s far-left politics amplified the brash caricature they embodied—a switchblade-carrying British gang who pledged to never stop creating chaos no matter how many times they get locked up. With the glow-up of a bigger indie label behind them for their second album, the gang ride again with burly bravado on The Mutt’s Nuts’ opening title track like nothing’s changed. They return in full-on theme-song mode, outright stating the band’s name, proclaiming they’re the best—or more specifically: “The mutt’s nuts”—and letting you know that they do what they want. Frontman Charlie Manning Walker even lifts a phrase from Slim Shady to underscore just how confident he is in heralding the band’s return: “Guess who’s back, back again?”
Their assurance is bold considering just how high they set the bar with Speed Kills—an album full of fire and devoid of duds—and “The Mutt’s Nuts”’ introductory punk rock piss and vinegar is slightly misleading. The band is still rowdy across the majority of the record, and Walker spends a lot of time shredding his voice with harsh shouted performances, but it’s notably the work of artists eager to show that they contain multitudes. When Walker gently sings a loving ode to his city with “Take Me Home to London,” his sentiment and tone land with significance and weight. It’s a beautiful song and a massive contrast to his usual screams about the city’s mayhem. As the album winds down, there are two straight-up pop songs about his deeply broken heart: “Life’s Lemons,” a twinkling ballad that sways like a late-’50s doo-wop record, and “I Hate the Radio,” a swooning power-pop showstopper about hearing an ex’s favorite song. It’s a bittersweet truth—sometimes when you’re the mutt’s nuts, you also feel like dog shit.
The slower, vulnerable, and more subdued songs are some of the best this band’s second album has to offer, which puts the album’s more aggressive material in a difficult spot. There’s this diptych early in the album, “On the Meter” and “Beat That Drum,” which illustrates the respective joy and stress from Walker’s past as a minicab driver. These songs also illustrate the limitations of Walker’s more aggressive vocal style. At its best, his voice is a bludgeoning, angry force lashing out about worker exploitation, crooked cops, and a broken criminal justice system. “Beat That Drum” suffers because the hook is repetitive and Walker’s instrument was wielded much more effectively across several preceding songs.
While The Mutt’s Nuts was never going to slot perfectly into place for anyone looking for Speed Kills 2, a suite of three songs on the B-side scratch that itch. All under two minutes long, they implement the same wildness and breakneck pace that defined their first album. The overwhelming joy in the power chord barrage of “Someone’s Gunna Die” is paired with Walker shout-growling about the casual, routine way people get murdered in the city late at night. Walker elatedly interpolates the Ramones on the anti-work anthem “Overachiever”: “I-I-I-I-I-I-I just wanna have nothin’ to do!” Then there’s the searing guitar solo and sing-along hook from “Getting Beat Again,” a translated cover of the Finnish punks Eppu Normaali’s 1978 song “Poliisi Pamputtaa Taas”—a catchy jam about police brutality in any language or decade.
Between the introductory braggadocio and the closing heartache, Chubby and the Gang spend a couple songs on The Mutt’s Nuts letting everyone know that they, too, lived through 2020. Walker invokes a fiery Minneapolis and urges the listener to “say their name” on the crawling almost-blues “White Rags,” while “Pressure” is a belligerent illustration of a breakdown in isolation that ends with a psychedelic guitar solo freakout. On an album where they expanded their approach, they managed to shed some of the Speed Kills caricature. The old formula was successful, but in subverting it, they embraced their rage and still left room for their vulnerability. It’s like the album’s theme song says—Chubby and the Gang do as they please.
Buy: Rough Trade
(Pitchfork earns a commission from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.)
Catch up every Saturday with 10 of our best-reviewed albums of the week. Sign up for the 10 to Hear newsletter here.