A YouTube-shaped black hole eventually sucked me into Sleaford Mods when I stumbled upon their single “Jobseeker,” a song that perfectly describes the bleakness of unemployment. Asked if he'd like to find another reputable job, the protagonist responds:
Nah, I'd just end up fuckin' robbing the place.
You've got a till full of 20's staring at you all day.
Well, I'm hardly going to bank it.
I've got drugs to take, and a mind to break.
It was like working class poetry stripped to the bone and filtered through a blender of punk and hip-hop and I became an instant fan.
Formed in 2007 by frontman Jason Williamson and Simon Parfrement (replaced by Andrew Fearn in 2012), Sleaford Mods are a duo from Nottingham in the UK. Their music fell on deaf ears until 2014, when the brilliant Divide and Exit grabbed the attention of music critics and ended up on several “albums of the year” lists.
Their sound can't be pinned down by genre labels. The double entendres, humor, and depth of Williamson's lyrics can be likened to the skill and craft of a hip-hop MC, yet the anger with which he sings and shouts them are completely punk. At the same time the sparse instrumentals created by Andrew Fearn evokes shades of The Pet Shop Boys as well as the Wu-Tang Clan; together they have created a sound that is entirely their own.
On their recent E.P, T.C.R. you get a sense of what this duo is all about with songs referencing everyday life without being mundane and politics without being preachy. Take the track “Britain Thirst” for example which encapsulates the irrational paranoia of the right-wing masses:
They're gonna tie my hands,
tell me not to scream,
they're gonna take it off me.
Relentless touring, coupled with universally acclaimed albums such as 2015's Key Markets has gained Sleaford Mods a devoted fan base which has spilled over into the United States. Happily, these fans will get the chance to see them live on a six-date tour beginning in March 2017 in Brooklyn and moving on to Toronto, Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco, before finishing up in Los Angeles.
It was like working class poetry stripped to the bone and filtered through a blender of punk and hip-hop...
Much like the music, their live set-up is raw and visceral: no live guitars, no backdrops just a microphone and a laptop loaded with instrumentals plugged into the speakers.
It's always an intriguing sight too, Andrew Fearn simply presses play on his laptop, cool as a cucumber, clutching a can of beer while Williamson rants over the music with a bestial wail convulsing with anger and tapping himself on the back of his head repeatedly as if he has developed a nervous tick to keep himself from exploding.
It’s a relentless onslaught of white-hot rage, soaked with equal amounts of sweat and passion. No matter how many times you see them, you will always leave a Sleaford Mods gig with the feeling that you have witnessed something special.