Record of the Week

Sleaford Mods “Key Markets”

Cover_SleafordModsSleaford Mods
“Key Markets”
(Harbinger Sound / Cargo)

Last weekend I was invited to a birthday party. And there was dancing. The host, who often works as a DJ at parties, played her records, which are carefully arranged, alphabetically and according to musical groups. Most successful on that evening when it came to unleashing collective euphoria was series A to I, the unmistakable highlights being the Beastie Boys, Blur, Ideal and Chris Isaak. On my way home I listened to the latest record by Sleaford Mods – “Key Markets” – and thought quietly to myself that a situation just as described above could easily have been part of one of Jason Williamson’s rants – something along the lines of “wankers daaancing to alphabetically sorted shit pop hits.”

But who am I to dictate Sleaford Mods’ lyrics. They appear to be doing fine by themselves and with an ease that seems to stem from the fact that the world and the people in it are apparently quite shite. As long as nothing changes about that, Sleaford Mods will be fine. So most likely they’ll be good forever. Andrew Fearn just has to push that one button that unleashes that creaking, scratchy staccato beat and words are bursting out of Williamson in the broad slang of the Midlands. Bitter, vulgar, cynical, desperate and genuine:

„…dirty neck barred from the last post the pub next to the church it’s alright blokes ‘n’ smokes it’s all God and an eye for an eye, still some out there who believe in the lie of Sunday’s apple pie, death waits for every man! it ain’t like cakes from birds you don’t get anything for your money back. pound back on the bottle of pop i tango and cashed it yam. cake tin, your job my job laughing, mate where we been? upstairs in the back kid on slop mod daft crop, i don’t wear crap like that throwbacks alright if ya doing something decent but I put ya cd on its fucking shakin’ stevens…”
(“Live Tonight”).  

Sleaford’s stream of ranting and raving brings to the surface all that is nasty and that’s why they are so important. Naturally, the Nottingham duo is the mangy terrier hanging on the trouser leg of the successful and complacent. The rim of dirt under the french nails of pop culture. Johnny Rotten/John Lydon catapulted to modern times on cheap speed. One track on “Key Markets” is called “No One’s Bothered”, another one “Silly Me” – Sleaford Mod’s bill of indictment is extensive and includes themselves as well – of course, in a “world full of shit” everyone’s a bastard.

And despite all of that, I just can’t seem to agree with them a hundred percent. After all, Sleaford Mods are first and foremost two white western men who burp loudly into the mic on behalf of other white western males (obviously to be heard on the record) and by doing that save all the well-behaved hipster boys from having to do a lot of vulgar drinking and general loutishness thus ensuring their ever-lasting adoration.

“Everyone spits on you, even your wife!”, right, we all get who’s being addressed here and who isn’t. The dub-heavy tracks “Tarantula Deadly Cargo” and “Bronx in a Six” are those tracks that speak most to me personally. The bass plays a bigger role in those and all of a sudden I find myself listening more attentively – “ya chinney wine tasters die in boxes like the rest of us.” I’ll drink a nicely chilled chardonnay to that.

Mark E. Smith of The Falls has recently demonstrated quite publicly what relentless grumbling can lead to: during a festival set he pissed his pants and naturally didn’t bother leaving the stage. On the other hand: might as well be accounted for as a commentary on the fabricated high gloss pop-circus that was going down around him (apart from Sleaford Mods, of course, who were also performing at said festival.)
Christina Mohr

I kind of struggle with two things here. The lesser problem of both, I’d like to outline with a quotation by Veit Sprenger (of the performance collective “Showcase Beat la Mot): “However you go about doing something, you’ll always get it wrong if you’re standing on the wrong side of things.”

I can neither fully subscribe to the notions of a band that opposes meaninglessness and the pretend end of the class war with the stereotypical honest hard-working labourer, soaked in pride and beer, nor can I utter believable demands for a little less ladism, please and thank you. My personal solution would be to place myself in second row, gently bobbing along, with a distinct and appropriate distance kept between myself and the choir of bellowing and raised fists proclaiming “Sleaford Mods, Sleaford Mods, Sleaford-sleafordsleaford Mods” that the album starts out with.

The bigger challenge for me personally is that the rants that Sleaford Mods have become renowned for, are not in fact that straight forward and clearly spelt out as one would like to think, but are choke full of allusions, references, slang and neologisms, so that most of the time I find myself wondering what the hell they are actually talking about. I do however understand enough to be impressed by Jason Williamson’s spectacularly energetic performance in general that is certainly testament to his eloquence, yet, the excellence of his lyrics will for the most part remain inaccessible to me and I can only guess from the assorted parts I do understand, how brilliant they truly are.

I am quite impressed by the insults directed at specific English politicians, for instance: “Miliband got hit with the ugly stick not that it matters the chirping cunt obviously wants the country in tatters.” All political masquerade aside, each and every social democratic or otherwise degenerate implementer of capitalist interests is after all a human-being theoretically in possession of free will and therefore deserves to be individually scolded.

I do not at all like the line “ya chinney wine tasters die in boxes like the rest of us wasters”, which has already been quoted by above and has been mentioned by Williamson in an interview as one of his favourite lyrics. Not only because of its morality built on resentment, but first and foremost because that line is just very dull. I don’t see how it differs from any of the commonplaces the average grandmother would resort to, delivered with a sigh, along the lines of “You can’t take it with you when you die.” All in all I am not comfortable with those moments on the album, in which the bellicose left-wing-attitude collapses into the sadomasochistic apocalyptic.

Even as devotee of the anti-authentic, I cannot fully manage to escape the very prominent propaganda of how authentic everything about Sleaford Mods supposedly is, but only just because their brand of authenticity is exclusively derived negatively, as in not built on how authentic everything is, but built on joyously destroying phonies of all kinds in a humorous way, like for example those poor wannabe rockstars in the neighbouring village: 努annabes never change its the wannabe show and you always wannabe the same, posy shit and leather jacket, motorbikes from the 50s you live in carlton you twat you’re not snake fucking plissken!

Well, that’s what I have to say regarding those twenty percent of the lyrics that are fully accessible to me. Musically, as pretty much to be expected, it’s your standard neo-punk that is rather designed to direct the attention towards the lyrics. As hinted at above and as is widely known Williamson’s style of chanting is nothing but huge.
Jens Friebe


Translation: Tanita Sauf

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