photo: Shaun Gordon
On the way to the show my gig companion was telling me that she hadn’t seen Sleaford Mods live for a few years. The last time was at the JamCafé back when it was Jason and his Minidisc player. She said it was basically a very angry man shouting at the audience. Being shouted at by someone you don’t know isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, and it put her off them for a bit.
Since then, frontman Jason Williams has been joined by Andrew Fearn, and the two of them have fine-tuned Sleaford Mods in to the raging beast that stands before us for the first of two nights that they’re doing at Spankys supported by a suitably rowdy cast of upstarts in the form of Grey Hairs, Endless Grinning Skulls and White Finger.
Jason is still angry, but his venom is now channelled in to something more coherent rather than it coming across as if you are personally getting a bollocking. It all started around the release of Wank (2012), when Andrew came on board, which seemed to be the moment that Jason’s ire was finally channeled in to something more poetic. This was consolidated with last year’s Austerity Dogs, celebrated in numerous end of year lists, most notably in The Quietus and by Norman Records, helping to turn Sleaford Mods in to a national concern.
photo: Shaun Gordon
2014 has seen broadsheet think pieces, trendy blog posts, and rave reviews for their latest and most brutally sardonic release to date Divide and Exit. It also seems that they’ve been an a never ending tour of the UK and northern Europe. There’s a sense of occasion about tonight’s show, the first of a two-night residency in a small, and you sense that this will be the last time Sleafod Mods will be playing this kind of show - intimate room-above-pub type places hosted by DIY promoters.
Jason delivers his words in a way that can neither be described as rap or spoken word, but it falls somewhere between the two - a combination of the acerbic dryness of Mark E Smith and the sharp tongue of John Lydon. The music, delivered from a laptop, an upgrade from the old Minidisc player, suits Jason’s delivery perfectly. Minimalist, no-nonsense loops of predominantly nervy, edgy post-punk bass and drums; everything is stripped down to the bare essentials so you feel the full impact of Jason’s barbed lyrical bombs.
And what lyrics they are. In a world where the charts and glossies are rammed full of bands and singers who appear to take more care in doing their hair or polishing their shoes than actually bothering to write decent songs, Sleaford Mods are a breath of fresh air. They are that shitty, cramped bus ride to work in the morning. They are when you have to take a dump in Wetherspoons. They are that gobshite we all know too well. Jason is simply describing a world that we all inhabit and can relate to. But he has the rare ability to put across how shitty that can be with humour, wit, intelligence, delivered with a magpie’s eye for detail. Watching the band on stage you realise that this is the real deal. There’s no fake American accents here.
photo: Shaun Gordon
Their lack of Mercury Music Prize nomination in the week took a lot of people by surprise, yet, the band hadn’t even put themselves forward. This gets knowingly mentioned in McFlurry: “I got a Brit Award, I got a Brit Award, I got a Mercury Music Prize Award”. Much like Hookworms with Pearl Mystic last year (released via Nottingham’s Gringo Records), I doubt they were able to stump up the small fortune it costs to actually put your album for nomination. Another sign that it’s only really an industry circle-jerk.
A band I’ve seen toiling away for years around our city's toilet venues, tonight almost feels like we are waving a band off, knowing that they are on the ascendent, and probably won’t be playing events like this for much longer. I once called them local treasures, but they’re fast becoming national ones.
Sleaford Mods, White Finger, Endless Grinning Skulls and Grey Hairs played at Spanky Van Dykes on Saturday 13 September 2014.
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