In recent years, many sub-sectors of Lad Culture have become something of a plague to society pushing misogynist and faux-masculine ideals forward that have done more harm to British society than many care to admit. As a result of this, the slew of bands that are often associated with being ‘lads’ and as being ‘real rock n roll’ has also become something of a plague — especially when they’re using fake angst as a tool to sell — so whenever someone comes out with a strong cockney accent, using British slang, and are angry about A) the state of music and B) the state of society, it’s almost become second nature to shout ‘gimmick!’. It’s something of an unusual backlash that’s created a certain snobbery against the many based off of the mistakes of the few. It doesn’t help that at this point the public have been told way too many times that the next big sociopolitical punk band are the real deal before being given a complete imitation of punk. But it’s gotten so bad that it’s lead to articles from the likes of Drowned In Sound entitled ‘Why is British Guitar Music So Stagnant?’
Sleaford Mods are a duo now in their mid-40s and are undoubtedly prone to spotting this sort of bullshit. Only recently they we calling out Slaves for ‘ripping us off’ and found it disgusting how they were ‘playing the working class game’. Unfortunately Sleaford Mods will be inevitably lumped together with these bands that they have such a disdain for. Sleaford Mods call out everyone they possibly can on their new album, ‘Key Markets’ almost in the same way that Run The Jewels calls out fuck boys as much as they do police brutality. Sleaford Mods have been in music for a long time now with them only recently being able to quit their jobs to live purely off their music. Jason Williamson quit his job as a benefits advisor, something that has fuelled a lot of the Mods’ music.
Where Sleaford Mods differ from what some may consider their peers, is that their anger is real, as is their care-free attitude; it’s not pandering to the ‘Rock n Roll star’ stereotype it’s a genuine frustration. Williamson doesn’t have a single care for melody in the way he rants in their songs. When performing live he stands there by the microphone and lets a looped drum beat play over and over on a laptop while his co-member, Andrew Fearn often stands behind him drinking a beer and screaming along with him every now and again. Unlike their previous albums there is some level(even if it’s very limited) of musicality to the songs on ‘Key Markets’, there are some times when Williamson actually sings and as jarring as that is, it works in adding character to their music.
Some have described what Williamson does as rapping, but there isn’t any sort of flow in the way he deliveries his rants and he rarely actually talks in time to the beat itself. His delivery is more like spoken-word with the pure wit of a comedian, the first comparison that comes to mind is Jilted John’s ‘Gordan is a Moron’ but on a really angry level. And as many have suggested the delivery is sometimes reminiscent of some of The Fall’s early material. Mods play extremely repetitive rhythms bolstered by just a bass-line that’ll often be genuinely sinister and impressive like on the track ‘Cunt Make It Up’ which is strangely reminiscent to the opening bass line from Swans’ last album, or ‘Face To Faces’ and ‘Tarantula Deadly Cargo’ which both sound very Post-Punk inspired.
Aside from their actual sound, which at times sounds live and at other times sounds like it’s literally being played through a laptop, Sleaford Mods’ appeal and key difference from other artists making protest music is their actual lyrics. Sleaford Mods hold no bars in attacking everything from the way people act like complete posers on ‘Bronx In a Six’ to the British political system on tracks like ‘Face To Faces’ and ‘In Quiet Streets’. The way in which they tackle the politics on this album is interesting because they don’t take direct shots at David Cameron –our political punching bag — as much as they do take them at the people who are meant to represent the ordinary people in politics like Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband saying that ‘Miliband got hit with the ugly stick, not that it matters. The chirping cunt obviously wants the country in tatters’. It highlights the hopelessness that many people feel in Britain, especially during the last election and Sleaford Mods have a certain way of channelling their anger into such brilliant verses with memorable lines coming in the plenty.
Williamson and Fearn aren’t ‘Saviours of rock’ or ‘REAL PUNK MAAAN’, but they are continual breath of fresh air in music. They thrive in the fact that they’re endlessly entertaining and continuing to grow so late into their careers in music that’s only really beginning as they hit middle age, which is remarkable in itself. It’ll be very interesting to see where they go next with this being their most accessible album yet (despite the fact they don’t want radio play). Sleaford Mods have a very unique style that’ll be sure to polarise the people who still have a disdain for lad culture, because it may actually make them rethink their judgements, and it may excite those who have been looking for something unique from the UK.
Best Tracks: In Quiet Streets, Bronx In The Six, Arabia