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Sleaford Mods

As much akin to the mods as Little Mix is to rock’n’roll, Nottingham’s SLEAFORD MODS – the moniker taken from a town near Grantham, Lincolnshire, where their ranting rapper Jason Williamson originated – the overtly expletive-(un)friendly duo tender out influences such as punk, hip hop, rap, rave, indie, et al. Several albums down the line, 2015’s universally acclaimed “Key Markets” finally garnered the pair rave reviews and a close shave with the Top 10. Described by pundits as an embittered blue-collar hybrid of JOHN COOPER CLARKE, HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT, PUBLIC ENEMY, Shaun Ryder, Derek & Clive and IAN DURY (without his “Blockheads”), SLEAFORD MODS bring not peace and tranquillity into the melting pot, but a profanity-addled rebellion of everyday life and pop culture.
Back in the mid-00s, a 30-something Jason Williamson – who’d sessioned for SPIRITUALIZED and BENT whilst part of an electronica combo Unity Crescent – teamed up alongside studio programmer/producer Simon Parfrement to formulate SLEAFORD MODS; Jason’s “That’s Shit, Try Harder” project was therefore dissolved. Released on a shoestring budget for the A52 Sounds imprint, four CD-r’s surfaced in as many years; SLEAFORD MODS (2007) {*5}, THE MEKON (2007) {*6}, THE ORIGINATOR (2009) {*7} and s.p.e.c.t.r.e. (2011) {*6} all stirring a foul air of cynical missives aimed directly at capitalism, the media and everything else under the sun. `Jobseeker’ from the second of these self-financed records was particularly puncturing and owed a lot to the shout-y man’s time as a benefits advisor for Nottingham City Council. If film-maker Shane Meadows had been looking for someone to feature in his kitchen-sink skinhead dramas, the wayward Williamson could well fill an Arthur Seaton-type role (in reference to the Saturday Night And Sunday Morning flick).
The addition of electronics geezer Andrew Fearn for 2012’s CD-r WANK {*7} subsequently caught the attention of Steve Underwood’s Harbinger Sound Records; titles such as `P.P.O. Kissin Behinds’ and `Shit Streets Runny’ – the latter with guest vocalist John Paul – amusing ditties for people who loved their poetry with added hot spice. Simon left shortly afterwards, but took up the job of press photographer and media producer before Jason and Andrew unveiled an all-new SLEAFORD MODS look for 2013’s AUSTERITY DOGS {*7}. A bass-beat and a drum machine but no f-in’ trumpet, the 43-year-old Williamson picked his battles well as he fired off his cannon mouth on `McFlurry’ (in ref to McDonalds), `My Jampandy’, `Fizzy’, `Donkey’ and `The Wage Don’t Fit’ – note that several tracks crossed over from their previous set.
“The Final Countdown by fucking Journey” might’ve been a factual faux pas on `Tied Up In Nottz’ – one of several highlights on DIVIDE AND EXIT (2014) {*8} – but that mattered not for the cathartic Williamson and side-kick Fearn. Littered by f and c words with several p’s and s’s thrown in to crudely go where no act had gone before (in England at least), Jason ranted against a nation in turmoil while the rich get richer at the poor’s expense; rapid-fire toilet-wall paranoia or a bilious bong of banter, the street-smart among the savage were `Tiswas’ (once a TV programme for teens), `From Rags To Richards’ (Keef don’t sue) and the majesty of `The Corgi’.
Side-stepping out on the tiles, the manic Mod preachers duly teamed up with heroes The PRODIGY on their body-shaking `Ibiza’ – “what’s he fuckin’ doin’?” – (from 2014’s The Day Is My Enemy), while better still was the bouncing `Head And Shoulders’ as guests of LEFTFIELD (on their Alternative Light Source set from 2015). Album eight if you count all the CD-r’s, KEY MARKETS {*8} had an unusual plug, in the sense that it name-checked 6 Music presenter Lauren Laverne – on the track `Bronx In A Six’ as she “keeps playing Tumbling Dice” – who helped hype the duo on television’s discussion programme, What Ever Happened To Rock’n’Roll? The pious and poisonous rants of Williamson painted a putrid picture of a country going to the dogs, and with all the bite of a bull terrier in heat, Williamson took pot-shots at celebrity squares on the nihilistic punk of `No One’s Bothered’, `Live Tonight’, `Giddy On The Ciggies’, `Cunt Make It Up’ and `Rupert Trousers’. They apologise to no one.
When the mighty Rough Trade imprint invites you to the party, there can be only one answer. In keeping with indie ethos, SLEAFORD MODS inked the deal and almost immediately set about recording fresh meat for October 2016 release of the `T.C.R.’ EP. Eyeballing a menu that highlighted ENGLISH TAPAS (2017) {*7}, the dynamic but despairing duo of Williamson and Fearn had reasons to be un-cheerful, sarcastic and street-smart savage. Counter-culture, austerity and the impending Brexit fiasco receive a dig or three; the pair’s punk poetry set to repeat-prescription beats were probably at their most visceral on `Army Nights’, `Drayton Manored’, `Dull’ and the provocative `B.H.S.’ (one ditty that “Sir” Philip Green should ‘ear).
Surely the UK chart lists should incorporate a separate one for extended plays (just like in the swinging 60s), because lumping the short, 5-track eponymous EP in at No.42 in the “album” charts seemed a misnomer, in September 2018. That aside, the explicit points of view expressed on attendant tracks, `Stick In A Five And Go’, `Bang Someone Out’ and `Dregs’, was the lads’ tongue-in-cheek life-style in the feisty lane.
Opting to break free from Rough Trade and switch to their own Extreme Eating imprint, the snarky and stroppy SLEAFORD MODS – not for the first time; not for the last – savaged the belligerent and bungling establishment via ETON ALIVE (2019) {*7}. It was indeed encouraging that a wholly independent d.i.y. punk-rap act could still compete commercially with the big guns, as the album’s Top 10 side-door entrance suggested. Poking a sharp, pointy stick at corrupt capitalism, cocky celebrities and consumption abuse (at times all three with one twist of the tongue), worthy Williamson and fearless Fearn found fresh ways to provoke today’s wolf-eat-pup government. And there was nothing austere in the angst-fuelled explicit scripts of `Kebab Spider’, `O.B.C.T’, `Policy Cream’, `Into The Payzone’, darts-player `Big Burt’ et al.
© MC Strong/MCS Jul2015-Jun2019

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