If the current political and social landscape were to have a soundtrack, it could well be by Nottingham band Sleaford Mods. Comprising of Jason Williamson (words) and Andrew Fearn (music), they depict a Britain crippled by NHS cuts, homogenised by faceless corporations and seething with violence and boredom in equal measure. Sleaford Mods have released two critically acclaimed albums, and have been ........
Their latest album Key Markets is reviewed by Kevin Quinn.
“For any ‘modernity’ to be one day worthy of taking its place as ‘antiquity’ it is necessary for it (to capture its time)”
Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life (1863)
It has been an eventful two years for Sleaford Mods. From Austerity Dogs to new release Key Markets, they have enjoyed a steady yet rapid rise, from playing to a hundred people to becoming prominent in Europe to the year’s festivals and a major UK tour later in the year.
Along the way they have irked uber-Mod-Godhead (or is it uber-God Modhead? Hard to keep with these ‘modernists’), P-Well and Britpop-Mini Me Cuban-heels wearing Noel Gallagher (both having stuff for you to buy, remember. The key to relevance: ‘slag off threats, receive expected backing from acolytes, sit back and count your money.’ Textbook.)
They also became embroiled in the Daily Mail’s Conservative-led relentless attacks on the BBC as a result of the BBC’s decision to air their Glastonbury set. You know you’re doing something right when you are branded a threat to civilisation (admittedly, it’s more about their hatred of the BBC, but, two birds…) by the mouthpiece of the hating, berating masses, propagator of sacred cows and bulls(hit), anti-anything that raises awareness, ‘get back in your shitpit and do as you’re told’ organ of fascism.
On top of all that the band are subjects of the forthcoming documentary Invisible Britain, an on-the-road diary of off-the-track places, the beleaguered pursuit of progress of those on the fringes, the ground-down and marginalised. It will also serve as a reminder of how the band’s appeal has grown; people want to hear this. People need to hear this.
Key Markets is no great departure from previous releases: like Socrates, Williamson proves the difference between the truth and received opinion and, crucially, that the unexamined life is not worth living. Fearn remains the Brit-Kraftwerk, albeit nowadays more animated standing by his minimalistic aesthetic, sparse, Spartan sounds that assist in the anti-spectacular spectacle.
Named after a now defunct shopping centre memory-relic in Nottingham, the album’s title also doubles up as a statement on the pernicious existence of big business, share prices and flotation frippery that pervades all walks of life to the benefit of the few.
If some of music’s historical output has been sung in italics, then Sleaford Mods sing in BOLD CAPITALS. Rocking the HMS Austerity boat and calling out its proponents, like the Smiths they draw a line under the past, pouring scorn on conventions, using everyday alienation as an instrument of autonomy and power.
Once more this is the perfect symbiosis of lyrical outpouring and music, myriad carefully cloaked character assassinations at past no-marks who couldn’t be avoided back then (‘Bronx in a Six’) to decrying the woodwork people, the termites, whom success attracts like flies round shit, envious of the prize, vicarious victories.
No one is safe as attention turns to those who put themselves in the firing line in the name of commerce and craven narcissism (‘Giddy on the Ciggies’, “David Gandy ripped up Tory Cunt”; that ambassador for unattainable- aspiration, the third-rate girl-band dating spare part, ‘nice beard, Dave’ to the ‘Kill Boris band’(© Daily Heil) of ‘Face to Faces’ which in effect suggests pushing him off his bike not necessarily dispensing with the oaf, but… The media’s casting of Johnson as ‘Boris’ and his carefully stage managed appearance negates his menace. Sleaford Mods see it too (c.f. ‘Rupert Trousers’ we all see them in their reddish or mustard trousers and floppy foppish hair, the Bullingdon riot attire for those visits to the elite access bistros waiting to be trashed).
Breakneck, frenetic stream of consciousness spews out scattergun with seemingly unconnected alliterative observations: “Steak Tuesday… chinny wine tasters/wasters… green bins…” to cultural reference points of screen and sound lore “Snake Plissken… The Von Bondies… hot sauce maker” (Levi Roots?)’ and Wildean aphorisms “…variety is the lie of life…” all adding up to an identifiable and exhilarating whole.
This isn’t strictly about class, but it is about injustice and inequality, supported by a pliant media, historical invisible structures and strictures, the super-structure ever more dominated by incestuous bloodlines and their lackeys, things are because they’ve always been that way. Do not question, get back into your prescribed boxes and play with your toys.
Those who haven’t the ‘time’ or patience to sit through some ‘shouty man’ and the ‘same music’ every time miss the point. Saying they all sound the same is like chiding Leonard Cohen for sounding like Leonard Cohen, familiarity breeds content and this is jam-packed with it. The distinctive bass sound proliferates once more, ever-acting as the stable support on an album that has to be heard to be understood, no writing can fully capture the essence within.
Sleaford Mods are arguably the most culturally significant band since The Smiths. Which is a long time to have gone without some kind of kickback. It’s time.
They are not re-invoking and exhuming unlived ‘classic’ historical tropes and messages, poppycock pop or retrogenic rock, try-hards who are incapable of leaving their version of the past behind, inured to the ‘now’. This is now.
Raging against the machine never sounded so good.