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Sleaford Mods’ UK Grim: In England, Nobody Can Hear You Scream

Nottz post-punk duo Sleaford Mods return with their most polished and pointed record to date. Known for their minimalist backing beats and sharp, satirical lyricism, the duo has fine-tuned their unique combination into an album that bites back at the state of modern Britain.

Since the beginning, the Mods have had their finger on the pulse in voicing the aggravations of the working-class under Tory rule. This record is no different, with the expansive fourteen tracks taking aim at Liz Truss, nationalism, right-wingers, middle-class ignorance and bougie gentrification. Even though this isn't new territory for the duo personally, it remains refreshing to hear a band so openly (and brutally) attacking the specific features of the establishment and the societal structures that are making life in the UK so… grim.


Of course, it wouldn't be a Sleaford Mods record if there weren’t a few more personal grievances aired – this time most notably on the subjects of phone addiction and post-punk copycatting. In his playful and thistle-like Sprechgesang style, singer, Jason Williamson, maintains his reputation as an acerbic, sardonic wordsmith, armed with a battalion of creatively cutting put-downs. What gives these swipes their cheeky charm is the humour of the savagery. ‘Your heads full of sauce, you’re a tin of baked beans’ is as ridiculing as it is ridiculous in highlighting the stupidity of Right Wing Beasts. Another verbal whiplash comes from DIwhy which is crammed with back-to-back putdowns of wannabe musicians, from the blistering ‘you sell guitars on Facebook’ to the forthright ‘why do I feel like slapping those B&M goths?’.


Beats wise, Andrew Fearn adds a bit more flesh to his token skeleton style simplicity which gives the album an exciting diversity from track to track. For a band often harshly accused of repetitiveness, this record gives two fingers up to any suggestions of mundane sameness. Tilldipper mixes drum and bass with glimmers of Nine Inch Nails’ recent sound whilst Pit To Pit is backed by a punky bassline that you want to get your whole body and skull bouncing about to. Even when Fearn strips back any instrumental meatiness to its bare bones, it’s hauntingly reflective of a country in the grips of deprivation. Starkness is employed as a sonic reminder of the bleak situation this album grapples so heavily with.


What makes Sleaford Mods so great is their ability to balance the silly with the serious. Apart From You is stylistically reminiscent of the kind of songs The Mighty Boosh used to make in all their surreal glory whilst the eponymous UK Grim, in amongst all its rightfully embittered politics, provides a slice of absurdism with the line ‘I want it all like a crack forest gateau’.


Their last album (2021’s Spare Ribs) boasted excellent guest features from Amy Taylor of Amyl and The Sniffers fame, and fellow post-punk minimalist Billy Nomates. This time around, we are treated to collaborations with Dry Cleaning’s Florence Shaw and Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell. Shaw’s voice on the dark, hypnotic second single, Force 10 From Navarone, works excellently against Williamson’s delivery. Her moody, spiked performance brings an ominous edge to his jolly sardonicism, with the existential questioning, ‘why does the darkness elope’, doubly resonant as their two voices conjoin. There is a real joy to hear her spitting enunciation, which really brings out the glorious sounds of a good, old-fashioned swear. Ferrell’s feature on So Trendy on the other hand may seem like a wild card choice, but it works in a really smart way. The chorus’ vocal dissonance, created by contrasting Ferrell’s soaring and falsely positive singing against Williamson’s speedy repetitions, amplifies the lie of social media that the song takes aim at. Plus, it’s a real ear-worm, sure to be diving in and out of your brain multiple times a day.


Overall, this record shows that the Mods have matured like a fine cheese at full stink. It’s a strong and confident addition to the duo’s oeuvre which polishes up their signature sound and shoves it right in your face. Though they may remain a divisive presence, this album certainly solidifies them as a tenacious and scathing force to be reckoned with.


 

Words by Jasmine Gibbs



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