Cassels are, in many ways, a difficult band. Vocalist Jim Beck explains that they are “…too wanky and arty to be a rock band, too heavy and aggressive to be an indie band, too sensitive and wordy to be an out and out punk band, not cool or repetitive enough to be a post-punk band, not technically proficient enough to be a math band, and too English-sounding to be a grunge band.” I’ll add that they are also too delicate to be Shellac, probably the band they are most closely aligned to in spirit. There are clear similarities with Steve Albini’s monolithic triumvirate of pent up rage, yet Cassels are too polite, perhaps too reserved to reach the soaring levels of venom that Shellac are capable of at their best.

The Perfect Ending is best seen as an album of two halves (you know, like how records used to be constructed in the good ol’ days). The first part of the record deals with a range of issues such as millennial liberalism (‘A Snowflake in Winter’) to sexual assault and victim blaming (‘In the Zoo They Feed Him Nuts’), whilst the second half deals with the climate crisis that is at hand. Despite the homogeneity of the subject matter of tracks 6 to 9, it doesn’t feel like an overly bloated and polemicised concept, as all things that Cassels do are concise and on-point. There is little by way of superfluous waffle here, they have a point to make and are as direct in making it as possible.

The album opens with ‘A Snowflake in Winter’ which has a jagged guitar riff at the beginning that plays with tempo and volume. Jim Beck’s half sung, half spoken vocals will likely separate those who like the band and those who find them unbearable, which is fair enough. It’s clear that Cassels are not overly bothered about being liked as much as they are about getting their messages across, and for that they deserve great credit. Also, lines like “As ridiculous as believing the late-night polemics/ Of ego-centric and over-zealous television presenters” are hardly the stuff of easy to digest whimsical indie dancefloor dreams. It is this loquaciousness which makes their lyrics so enjoyable, although they arguably tread a fine line between sardonic political commentary and bad 6th Form poetry (all 6th Form poetry is bad, by the way). Thankfully, they always remain on the right side of the line and there is a wit, charm and honesty to their words which marks their lyrics.

There is an intelligent element of word play on almost every track (apart from the instrumental ‘Melting Butter’, naturally) but Cassels also use stark imagery and bluntness when needed. This is most evident on ‘In the Zoo They Feed Him Nuts’, which is mainly told from the position of a sexual assault defendant in a court case weaving his narrative to the jury. Phrases like “Eventually he broke through her defence” and other footballing metaphors along with “Now she’s on her own/ No charge left on her phone” and “He forced apart her knees” are effective in their raw simplicity and bruising lack of subtlety, an entirely emotive track and an emotional rollercoaster of victim blaming and the disempowerment felt by individuals within the judicial system.

‘The Leaking Ark’ tackles issues of widespread ecological and political crises on a personal level, relaying mundane instances in relation to more macro-level disaster. The dystopia just around the corner is of our own making, and Cassels want it known that we should be utterly ashamed of ourselves. Although the second half of the record deals with the climate crisis, there is still a humour, albeit dark, at the centre of the lyrics. The correlation between caring and replenishing your cod liver oil supplies on ‘The Queue at the Chemists’ is perhaps an obvious one, but only when it is made.

The Perfect Ending places humans as the scourge of a planet which could well do without us, a point which is difficult to argue against. The lyrics of the album will likely get the most attention from listeners as they are, by and large, witty, dry and on-point. The musicianship is economical and taut, which concisely sums up this album – there is nothing here which doesn’t have its place, which doesn’t add to the messages herein; everything is well thought through and purposefully constructed. This is an album of charm and despair in equal measure.