Sleaford Mods have been around for eight years, but over the last 12 months, their star has truly risen. As a singles collection Chubbed Up+ acts as a fairly comprehensive overview of the band for those wanting to find out exactly what the fuss is all about. Anyone put off by the “mods” part of their name can breathe easily, for the closest they get to Weller et al is in ramping up the social commentary of That’s Entertainment or Pretty Green to boiling point and beyond. Musically, Sleaford Mods are a fairly tin-pot affair. A drum track, a synth, and a bass line and that’s pretty much it. It’s fair to say that the band’s music is almost a masterclass in variations on a theme. Vocal wise, tonally at least, there’s little going on but what’s being said is where Sleaford Mods come into their own.
It’s saying something when a pair of 40 year old (+) men appear to be the fiercest political voices and social commentators in British music at the moment, but it would seem that the youth are no longer getting restless, and have precisely fuck all to say about anything. In the past, entire musical cultures were borne out of hardships and austerity, yet despite the UK plunging towards the abyss with the most vulnerable apparently little more than a statistic, there’s nary a peep from the youngsters. Honestly, kids these days, they’re not even taking awesome new drugs, or inventing new scenes, and new forms of music.
It would appear then that it is down to Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn to cast a gaze over the state of the country and comment accordingly. Judging by these songs, there’s little to be positive about. Indeed, Chubbed Up is a fairly relentless critique that, were it not for Williamson’s way with words, would be phenomenally depressing. Fortunately, these songs are mostly loaded with an equal share of pinsharp comedic observations and scathing invective. At times he veers close to John Cooper Clarke’s delivery but there’s nihilism here that would never see Sleaford Mods being asked to sell McCain chips. Imagining such a scenario is quite pleasing though – “Chips for tea? FUCK OFF!”
Part of Sleaford Mods appeal is that Williamson really doesn’t seem to like anything. At all. Every subject is addressed with the same level of scorn. This might seem ridiculous, but clearly he’s spent enough time musing on rock stars, Tories, social media users, jobcentre staff, and ”jolly fuckers” to detest each of them equally. The result is a bunch of songs that are roaring good foul-mouthed fun and fine snap shots of society. Whether it’s enough to sustain interest in the band over the long term remains to be seen, but it never did Derek And Clive any harm.
The Committee does a good job of puncturing the idiocy of celebrity hard-men and geezers who somehow have appointed themselves as cultural commentators. The relentless simplistic bass line drives the whole thing along with a dead eyed inevitably. Jobseeker sounds like an early incarnation of The Streets, although it’s hard to imagine Mike Skinner ever being likely to reply “fuck all, I sat around the house wanking” when asked what he’d been doing to find employment. Black Monday sounds like The Fall (1970s incarnation) and sets its sights on social divisions and protests. The lines “We took back the streets through the potholes and the last remaining internet cafes on the boulevard. We over turned world order…it’s not enough any more just to have a fucking sing a long” possess a romantic poetic thrust, but also a sense of hopelessness. When Williamson’s ire is fully focussed, he’s breathtaking.
Interestingly he saves his best put downs for middle-aged musicians and hipster music fans. 14 Day Court’s “Sonic Youth fan, MBV, if you like feedback that much, get a job at the council” is perfect, whilst Pubic Hair Ltd takes down middle-self important musicians. Set to a PiL styled track, Williamson punctures the bubble of pop stardom with the lyrical barb “Who gives a fuck yesterday’s heroes, who seem to think that they are still today’s heroes? It’s not a pyramid, you’re not a fucking pharaoh”. He’s got a point; after all, why should anyone care what Johnny Marr is doing these days? The problem is, Williamson is a middle aged bloke himself, and it’s a point that would be better coming from someone at least half his age and with twice as much fire in their belly. It can only be hoped that day is coming soon.