I asked a friend, whose opinion I generally rate highly, what he thought about Sleaford Mods. “I’m glad I went to see them. But I’m not sure I’d go again.”
Nevertheless, in a music scene that often seems crammed full of bands manufactured for reality TV or straight out of public school with shiny new guitars, Sleaford Mods have made a bit of an impression.
Sleaford Mods is Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn, two men in their forties with a line in angry, sweary banter that means newspaper interviews are a sea of asterisks.
Williamson insists he doesn’t swear for effect: it’s just how he normally speaks. That may be true, but their website cheerily makes a feature out of it and the intensity of the swearing clearly puts some people off. Be warned.
They are not from Sleaford, but both come from Lincolnshire and are now based in Nottingham. And Nottingham has form. The city was built on heavy industry, created from the wealth of coal mining, manufacturing and engineering.
It was the scene of the Great Cheese Riot of 1766 and the setting for the classic working class novel by Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning with its anti-hero Arthur Seaton.
Inevitably, comparisons have been made between Seaton and Williamson. But Williamson has also been compared to John Cooper Clarke, the Sex Pistols, William Hogarth, Ian Dury and the Wu-Tang Clan. No wonder he gets stage fright.
On stage Williamson is the front man and Fearn does the music. Well, he presses “play” on his laptop and then steps back to enjoy the show with a beer. It’s not particularly nuanced, but you have to admit the shouting is pretty poetic. He wants to knock Boris Johnson off his bike. He hates Ed Miliband, Ukip and Nick Clegg. And that’s just for starters.
Their first two albums, Austerity Dogs (2013) and Divide and Exit (2014) dealt with unemployment, recession, the general doom and gloom of working class life. Williamson only gave up his day job as a benefits adviser for Nottingham city council at the end of 2014.
Now they’ve just released their third “proper” album, Key Markets, and many of the same elements are there. It’s sparse, angry, relentless. But this time around there’s less generic laptop beat creation, more originality with the music. Lyrics are at times very funny (Rupert Trousers), at others very bleak, rather like the existence of being in a low paid bullshit job or on the dole.
Don’t look to Sleaford Mods for a solution to the alienation they describe so well on tracks such as No One’s Bothered. It’s not their job. As they told NME recently, “We’re not socialists, we’re not fucking communists and we’re not Billy Bragg-ists. We’re just talking about what we’ve been through. And we’re doing it in a way that is just normal to ourselves.”