People keep asking me about Northern duo Sleaford Mods. They’re a band that obviously engender strong opinions and create debate. Up until now I haven’t been able to join in the fun as I’d never heard them… despite the band having already released six albums and me having read a fair bit about them on the net. So luckily I now have “Chubbed Up +” to consider – a compilation of recently released singles, now getting a physical release with three added bonus tracks to round it out.
So what’s all the fuss about? Well, if you took Paul Weller of The Jam circa ‘That’s Entertainment’ and fed him a steady diet of John Cooper Clarke and The Fall and then put him in a bedroom studio with The Streets then Sleaford Mods sweary oeuvre is pretty close to the likely results.
One of those extra cuts, ‘The Committee’, opens the album; an ominous post-punk bassline and some John Lydon-esque harmonies set the mood, but then vocalist and lyricist Jason Williamson asks “Are we recording?” and with the DIY aesthetic established the rant begins. That’s what these tunes are – rants set to the most basic of musical backings of Andrew Fearn and it’s easy to see how they can be divisive. Many of the lyrics are scathing commentaries on aspects of modern Britain and your enjoyment of them will depend on whether you can smile and nod as the targets are furiously, but often humourously, attacked.
‘The Committee’ is one argument I can get behind – a withering put down of professional ‘geezers’, those self-appointed sub-culture experts, middle-aged media faces who used to be a bit naughty in their youth (both Ray Winstone and Garry Bushell are mentioned). It’s exactly the sort of esoteric subject you’d expect Mark E. Smith would tackle but probably more cryptically. There’s little room for mis-interpretation within Williamson’s lyrics – everything and everyone is assaulted with direct, searing intent – and you can almost feel the spittle fly into your face as Williamson spits his complaints.
I once read a paperback collection of Charlie Brooker‘s column in The Guardian and felt heart sick and depressed by the end of it; there’s only so much bile and negativity I can take over a short period. The music of Sleaford Mods may have the same effect over repeated listens.
There are moments, though, where the brutal simplicity of the music mixed with Williamson‘s smart mouthed gobbiness are strangely liberating. Occasionally the lyrics are touched by genius –
‘Chopped heads on London streets/All you zombies tweet tweet tweet‘ (‘Tweet Tweet Tweet’)
…and my absolute favourite lyric of recent times – ‘Sonic Youth fan, MBV, if you like feedback so much why don’t you get a job at the council/Insignificant white twat with a ‘tache/Nigel Mansell‘ (’14 day court’) – that, my friends, is poetry!
Sleaford Mods are beginning to get a measure of success – they have some big gigs coming up soon – but they have done everything on their own terms. They don’t exist in some private arty, hipster world, these grimy postcards from society’s edge are as real as it gets, and if you’ve read this far then I’m guessing you’ve got the balls and taste to recognise that.
You can have a little dance at the end to closing track ‘Fear of Anarchy’ – which perversely sounds like Public Image Ltd., as John Lydon is lampooned on the previous track ‘Pubic Hair Ltd’ –
‘Who gives a fuck about yesterday’s heroes?‘