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The return of Agitpop

Kid Kapichi's new album is smart, fearless and reflects a broken and rudderless Brexit Britain

Kid Kapichi: the battlers from Hastings. Photo: Chris Georghiou

As the Partygate scandal raged in January, shortly before the Met Police opened their investigation, a shakily filmed video appeared online by a little-known band from Hastings and got instant star approval.

Kid Kapichi’s Party at No 10 – a faux-solemn acoustic number that was equal parts Oasis and Arctic Monkeys – began “There’ll be cheese/ There’ll be wine/ What’s the vintage?/ 1969”, its chorus warning, “Don’t get excited/ You’re not invited/ To the party at No 10/ ‘Cause it’s one rule for you/ And another for them”. On Twitter, it provoked the highest praise Liam Gallagher is capable of giving: “That’s a tune RKID”.

Fast forward three months and the band were supporting Gallagher at the Albert Hall and their trajectory towards big things was set.

With 2021’s independently released debut album, This Time Next Year, Kid Kapichi had already set out their stall for politically conscious, attitude-heavy songs mixing the lyrical absurdism of Ian Dury, the punchy delivery of the Streets, and the guitar-centric swagger of Kasabian, and the follow-up What You Could Have Won, released this week, has a running theme of a Britain that has seriously lost its way.

“The title sums up the feeling of missed opportunity,” frontman and lyricist Jack Wilson said: “Being dragged right at a junction when you know you should be going left or screaming at the TV while someone picks the wrong answer on a game show.”

But if this sounds sanctimonious or downbeat, in fact, What You Could Have Won is an album that immediately grabs you by the lapels with its “beat punk” sound and its vivid storytelling. New England is as incendiary an opening to an album as can be imagined, with a clear message on Brexit – “You ain’t shut them out/ You just locked us in” – and posing the question of the nation: “Is it you can’t change/ Or that you won’t change?”

Rob the Supermarket follows, tackling food poverty via a provocative but hardly entirely serious lyric (“I help myself out at the self-checkout/ There’s an unexpected item and nobody about”). Next, there’s the indictment of the daily grind 5 Days On (2 Days Off), and then the reflection on social media fakery I.N.V.U.

Other stand-out tracks include Super Soaker, its nonsense lyrics the complete opposite of the band’s politically conscious tracks, having been concocted via David Bowie’s William Burroughs-influenced cut-up technique approach, and Smash the Gaff, a comic take on the Falling Down trope of the mild-mannered man pushed to the edge.

When so much of your material is overtly political and tied so tightly to the current moment, guitarist Ben Beetham has confirmed – “we write as close to the deadline as possible to keep it relevant” – there’s a danger of it quickly becoming dated. There’s also the eternal problem of sounding like a sixth-form politics student. But in the urgency of the current moment, the sentiments of these songs are powerful in their simplicity and entirely relatable.

What You Could Have Won is a cathartic listen as both a prime minister and a king are installed without so much as a by-your-leave – “You’ve been fooled, Britannia”, New England says – and multiple crises are affecting almost everyone in the country.

And the low-key closing track, Special, is affecting as it leaves the laddish tongue-in-cheek humour behind and rises to a doomy crescendo of genuine pathos about the state of the nation. The Specials’ Ghost Town updated for 2022, even borrowing “All the clubs have been closed down” as its opening line, Special is a portrait of a nation in the grip of a post-Brexit, post-pandemic depression, just as 40 years ago its predecessor painted a picture of societal breakdown in Thatcher’s Britain.

As Special describes “People shaken to their core”, and a broken economy that leaves many in in-work poverty (“Mums and dads are working late/ Just to put food on a plate”), its refrain “It don’t feel special any more” feels like a fitting theme tune for a rudderless Britain.

KID KAPICHI in five songs

Death Dips (2019)
From the early EP Sugar Tax, this typically dynamic track showed the band’s skill for storytelling. The gothic tale of an afternoon spent riding a ghostly rollercoaster, it made the Radio 1 playlist.

Sardines (2021)
An album track from debut LP This Time Next Year focusing on the undermining effect of the rat race (the title refers to the experience of the commute), it says “You’re angry and you don’t know why”.

New England (2022)
A portrait of xenophobia and political disengagement in Brexit Britain, this track swerves sneering sanctimony via its Ian Duryesque absurdist imagery: “Double decker bus and a bowler hat/ Bob the Builder/ Postman Pat”.

Rob the Supermarket (2022)
This take on food poverty was promoted with a video where the band looted Morrisons and donated the swag to a Salvation Army food bank.

I.N.V.U. (2022)
The band’s latest single is a takedown of social media fame: “And you know he poses like Moses/ As the people round him part like they’re the sea”.

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