“Elvis has definitely left the fucking building.”
15th November. Hammersmith Apollo. It’s about twenty minutes in when it hit me. Everything slowed down around me and I started to laugh to myself. The laugh was not about anything humorous or ridiculous. It was the laugh of someone who couldn’t believe that it had got to this point. “Industry” had tried to smother these kinds of victory laps. They have tried to snuff the voices of the working classes and forced art into acceptable forms. What I was seeing was not industry or acceptable. It was the sound of thousands of people singing songs laced with humour, compassion and poetic fury. On stage stood two blokes broken out of shackles and cliche. These two shouldn’t be here. One presents the words whilst the other sips on a bevvie stood behind his laptop all grinning and a shaking. How the fuck has this happened? Here we were hearing the anthems of austerity and defects sang at the top of passionate lungs…a few years ago I was seeing this duo in Spillers Records and then the Moon Club…what a leap..what a moment…the laugh subsides and I gaze around me with such affection at a crowd unified in our love for two men ripping up the shit rules and spitting out the truth all surrealist and brutal. The men are Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn. Together they are Sleaford Mods and they are Louder Than War’s Band of the Decade.
“Blood on the hands of working class rage”
Sleaford Mods and Louder Than War go way back. One of our first pieces of writing on the band goes back to a live review by Keith Goldhanger from 2013. “They’re probably the best punk rock band in the world and you are probably gonna fuckin’ luv em.” said Keith and do you know what? We bloody did. We have written about Sleaford Mods consistently since covering every album release and multiple gigs. What is apparent from scrolling through these past pieces on the band is how they have constantly been evolving. From he grimy drum machine spoken shout Austerity Dogs to this year’s brilliant Eton Alive Sleaford Mods have been a marching force for change and a vital beacon of hope in these grimy times. The UK has been dripping in an ugliness not seen since the seventies yet here we had our band. Barrier breakers. Here were a band that allowed for you to look like you want and as long as you have talent and a very strong work ethic then you can tear down the fabric of the musical norms and achieve anything. Make no mistake what Sleaford Mods have achieved is all down to the bands graft. They have toured consistently slowly building up bigger and bigger audiences and crafting a fiercely loyal fanbase. The Smarmy (as their fans call themselves) are made up of people from all walks of life and in Williamson and Fearn they see people telling them directly that it doesn’t have to be this way..if you want it go fucking get it and don’t let them above hold your face in the dirt anymore.
“the smell of piss is so strong it smells like decent bacon”
Looking through the career of Sleaford Mods and there are definitely moments that stand out as important. 2014’s Divide and Exit brought the band to the attention of many including Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood & Thom Yorke (who have been vocal in their praise for the band), Geoff Barrow (Beak> / Portishead) would put an EP out by the band on his Invada Records label, and of course the Godfather himself Iggy Pop who has been extremely supportive of the band. Divide and Exit landed just when it should have and is a key text in the story of an austerity ravaged UK. Politics were, and remain, a slime mould of hypocrisy and ugliness and Sleaford Mods gave us the ammo needed to get through the grim daily news cycle. What separates Sleaford Mods to other bands that came through on their coattails is there was no lazy sloganeering or obvious self-righteousness. You have to work to put Williamson’s lyrics together. They are cut and paste with phrases either tickling your funny bones or stabbing you right between the eyes. Divide and Exit was where the real story of our love affair with Sleaford Mods began..but there was more to come.
“You better think about the future”
2015 saw the band tour the UK visiting towns not normally included on the regular gig circuit seeing for themselves the effect of Tory Britain. The tour was documented on the brilliant film ‘Invisible Britain‘ That year also saw the band make their Later…with Jools Holland debut which proved to be a truly seminal television moment the likes of which Jools hadn’t seen since the 90’s. People on social media were divided and the ensuing back-and-forth between those who had loved it and those who hated it was glorious to watch unfold as it meant that this band I so loved had stirred the pot and upset a few people which is exactly what they should be doing. LTW’s chief John Robb even took to this site to write his views on the performance and what it meant to UK culture. Then came Glastonbury and the Bunch of Kunst documentary. The bands performance on the John Peel Stage again attracted and repelled people. It would go on to be on the most streamed performances on the iPlayer that year and Bunch of Kunst gave us a truer understanding of the Fearn/Williamson relationship.
Look, if you don’t like Sleaford Mods that’s fair enough. It’s a supposed free country after all but what you are missing out on is the most pivotal duo in modern music. Their music redefines masculinity and compassion. They make you work for the kick and don’t spoon feed you any lazy platitudes. Sleaford Mods are the tools we need to keep sane in an ever increasing collective madness. They can help you get sober and stop you falling in to the cliche of addiction..a cliche that you have found yourself swirling in for decades. Sleaford Mods are pure and ugly. They have the catalogue and the anthems to make them stand tall with other more celebrated British bands. They encourage you to read and think. They are intelligent and sometimes childlike. They make you think think think. They inspire and never fall into beige or dullness. Sleaford Mods created the paths that others now walk on. They are futuristic yet traditionalist. Sleaford Mods cross-pollinate influences. Sleaford Mods are our crutch and our beacon.
Sleaford Mods are our band of the decade…now fuck off!