Sleaford Mods : Manchester Academy  : live review









Sleaford Mods
Manchester Club Academy
Sept 2014
Live Review

Is this the angriest man in Britain?

Jason Williamson stands there sideways on the stage and just rants- a filthy and thrilling bile inflected rush of abuse at every conceivable target out there- including himself and the audience with the same kind of acidic spleen as prime time Mark E Smith, the same kind of surreal wit of John Cooper Clarke and the same kind of attention to the small detail as the genius Half Man Half Biscuit and the Brit hop of the Streets or the same kind of waif like charisma and anger as energy as Johnny when he was Rotten.

On the other hand he is nothing like any of these markers and they are just lame comparisons trying to pinpoint Williamson down when he is very much his own self- a fiercely smart and dangerously annoyed individual reacting against the plastic trash of modern life with that long list of gripes we all have cheaply tattooed on our psyches in cut price Blighty of 2014.

It took them seven albums but with Austerity Dogs they suddenly connected with this mixed up mish mash audience who come up to me and compare the band to everyone from Crass to Public Enemy and that’s because you just cannot box them up at all.

Williamson is the classic ranter, a welterweight wordsmith with a running commentary on the disunited kingdom that seethes with disgust whilst his band mate Andrew Fearn provides the compelling and gloriously lo fo backing tracks that sound like keyboard presets but have been grafted to make the bass lines insanely catchy and the wheezing drum patterns eminently danceable.
Boy is Williamson angry but then he’s got a lot to be angry about. In the 21st century, when we were promised everything and delivered nothing, a rant is the only fightback left and Williamson along with his cheap plastic wielding cohort are the voice of the angry, pissed off and dispossessed- scuttling out of a small town England where no-one is listening and everyone feels fucked off, an anger laced with a surreal dark humour that is as 21st century English as the Kinks were Klassic sixties.

When Ray Davies was singing his genius vignettes, though, it was in a camp and brilliantly tongue in cheek manner as he dissected the curious English beast going through its first throes of the post empire blues- a nervous breakdown with all that weird class stuff which was quaintly amusing at the time. Decades later and that joke isn’t funny any more and the class war is starting to drive people mad. Literally.

Sleaford Mods are the sound this underbelly. They came out of small town England near Nottingham and retain the regional accent and humour with non of the estuary accent bullshit.

This is the sound of the forgotten so called ‘provinces’, the beat up small towns, the piss stained concrete of modern life, the junk food, the football and music stolen by the bankers and the tycoons, this the junk culture spat back at you in a flow of spittal and fierce humour that is hypnotic. This is the white crap answering back as The Fall once sang and answering back to smug commentary and the posh indie that dominates so called alternative music. The packed audience lap it up- singing along to choice phrases and wrapped up in the infernal energy of the duo.

This is music stripped down to perfection with Fearn standing there with his hands in his pockets flicking the switches pumping the stripped down beats and driving bass lines, kicking in with the drum machine and electronics whilst Williamson spits out his anger with his hand waving and flicking in the air like the charismatic nutter at the bus stop.

This the soundtrack to the ignored Britain, a place that is a million miles away from the bosses, the politicians and the media- an alien, for some, land full of resentment but with a brilliant gallows humour. This is the real England, the good people treated badly, a nation of lions locked up, the decent people shat on and laughed at by the donkeys in control- except their tired donkey old world is coming apart at the seams and a million truths are starting to leak out.

Sleaford Mods make no effort to document any of this, they just tell their truth of grubby hedonism and wank culture, of shitty towns and crap nights out. It’s a kitchen sink drama turned into song- the dashed ambitions and the broken down lives, it’s like Scum but angrier and after seven albums Sleaford Mods are the daddies now and they got the music to back it up.

Their stripped down simplicity is like Suicide with a genuine English menace, it’s like a like brawl after the pubs with a homemade hip hop soundtrack given a good kicking by old punks, it’s like all the gallows banter of living in the now and its hideously and brilliantly entertaining and it’s like the soundtrack to Shane Meadows film that is waiting to be made.

The audience sing back the lyrics with a gusto, picking out choice phrases of barbed wit from Williamson and the Sleaford Mods are totally connected with the so called mob.

In 2014 there are no certainties any more.

This is England.


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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Good write-up that. I was there Friday and they feel like a force of nature now.

    What clicks with me is that Jason’s lyrics come over just like nearly the people I know. Sarc-y, angry, intelligent, well-read, giving-a-fuck, political, funny…

    The usual ‘working-class’ types that get any voice in the media are usually dopey cunts like Noel ‘I’ve never read a book’ Gallagher. I’ve never recognised that dumbing down shit or those scrounging, feral desperate cases depicted on the news as typical of UK citizens. Sleaford Mods give me hope that we’re not done yet.


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