Formation – ‘Look At The Powerful People’ Review


Long-awaited debut from five dudes railing against the world using electropop

“I don’t think we’re a political band, but if someone’s gonna start bringing bulls**t you’ve got to stand up for yourselves,” Will Ritson, frontman of south London dance-punk agitators Formation, told NME in 2015. Two years later, as certain world leaders seem hellbent on razing society to the ground, the five-piece’s debut album is a mini manifesto on harnessing your own power, pooling it with your mates’ and taking on anything the world throws at you.

The powerful people, Formation argue on the track of the same name, are not May or Trump, but the rest of us. “Now I feel it and I need you / Please let me in, my powerful people,” sings Will in the chorus, turning his seductive purr into urgent cries in the verses. It’s a call for unity and collaboration, and an ode to collective strength set to a slinking bassline and elastic electronics. It’s positive and empowering, but there’s plenty of anger elsewhere on the record. ‘Buy And Sell’ sees Will, his twin brother Matt and their bandmates railing against consumerism and the brainwashing world of advertising. “Buy and sell / And go to hell,” they scream, with such ferocity they sound as if their vocal cords are about to violently snap. ‘Drugs’, meanwhile, has them observing society’s need to be off its face with more than a hint of an eye roll and a lot of cowbell.

‘Look At The Powerful People’ not only reflects the world we live in in its themes, but in its sounds too. Co-produced by Ben Baptie (engineer for Adele and The Strokes) and house producer Leon Vynehall, it mixes the hard, moody edge of rock, the swagger of hip-hop, house’s hypnotic rhythms and some killer soulful pop hooks. Listen closely enough to ‘On The Board’ and you can even hear a nod to the Ritson brothers’ childhood spent singing in church choirs in a tiny snatch of buried backing vocals. Like the churches they attended in their youth, Formation’s music is a call to arms to come together – not in the name of God, but society. Join them now.