Sleaford Mods – Eton Alive

It’s the constant dilemma for bands when they become successful and maybe have a bit more dosh, how to revive that impulse that drew you into making music in the first place. How do you keep your songs as meaningful to you, and hopefully your audience, as you did when you first started? In the world of Sleaford Mods though, there’s still plenty of wrongs that need putting right – shit politicians, fakers, technology, and even the more personal battles against your own demons all make an appearance on the new Mods album. “Into The Payzone – touch card” is a line you’ll be chanting all week, from the brilliant Fall-esque rant on opening tune ‘Into The Payzone’, with Jason Williamson railing about consumerism, that loveable annoyance we all participate in and how when coupled with technology it drives us all round the bend. ‘Kebab Spiders’ blasts the insincere phonies in music, film and TV with Williamson raging “some documentaries on Channel 4 are only in it for the fame” and “you’ve had a record deal for thirty years, what do you know about agencies, shit jobs and low wages”. With its manic chorus of “who knew, they let the experts in” over Andrew Fearn’s sublime beats and electronic backdrop, it’s a barbed wire blast of vengeance to the poseurs Williamson has encountered in his career. Surprisingly it ends with one of their most melodic pieces to date, with Williamson actually singing, but, for one, – he hold a tune, and two – the way he delivers those lyrics are still with the same intensity of a kettle about to boil over.

Vocalising in a song what many people want to say to those in power, especially in the political spectrum, the frustration notches up a gear on ‘Policy Cream’ with its opening gambit of “sit down, just shut up, I’ll talk” and “it’s the rest who push the policy dream, they’re fixing life with the policy cream”, set against Fearn’s hypnotic layer of repetitive beats, deep basslines and electronic embellishments. Andrew Fearn is just as vital a songwriter in the Mods’ realm, as his rhythms and soundscapes manage to compliment and remain spacious enough for Williamson’s messages to hit home as his modern life observations continue: “ I’ve got two brown bins should I only have one, what the council don’t know won’t hurt them”. ‘O.B.C.T.’ continues the tirade against artificial types with “you know the fakes who hide behind” and “all grit and dirt until the mask falls off and what you got is Sesame Street Big Bird” with something you never expect to find in a Sleaford Mods song (or any song for that matter!) –  a kazoo solo! It’s a proper two fingers up to conventional instrumentals and only a band like Sleaford Mods could make it work as well. Like blowing a huge raspberry to the world!

Williamson lets loose his inner soul boy by singing on ‘When You Come Up To Me’, which is a slow, minimalist electro pulse of a tune, and the more laidback ‘Firewall’ as opposed to the spoken word style verbalising he’s famous for, with Fearn’s beats having a hypnotic effect on both. ‘Top It Up’ finds Williamson back to his ranting best, this time he’s on about unsavoury characters drug taking at a funeral “splitting out two lines on a table for someone who got sick of two lines on a table”, and culminating with its chorus of “shove it up, at least the DJs alright, I’m on a buzz” and ends with him begging “take me away of from it”. ‘Flipside’ has more fast paced beats and reflections about how “Graham Coxon looks like a left wing Boris Johnson” whereas ‘Subtraction’ has deep pulsating bass lines and Williamson observing “it’s not enough anymore to want change, you have to do change, but the only change I like sits in in my pocket, I’m a consumer, I’m the system’s rocket”. ‘Negative Script’ is the most personal song they’ve written to date, and deals with how Williamson’s battles with getting wasted wore him down, “I favoured being out of it, but I got tricked by my tiny mind” and “I didn’t want to fit the page of my negative script”, set against Fearn’s minimalist, motorik rhythms adding to the darker tone.

Although they may have had more success than they ever imagined when they first started railing against the world, after twenty years of day jobs, the general mess of society, coupled with the more mundane day to day aggravations, there’s plenty of material to draw from to keep Sleaford Mods in business for a long time, and there’s no better poet around than Williamson to turn an annoyance into a witty cutting line. They may have branched out into slightly different beats and vocal styles for some of ‘Eton Alive’ but all still mange burn with a seething frustration at the world around us. If there was ever any more proof needed that we all need Sleaford Mods in our lives, this is it. Another fine slab of musical brilliance from the East Midlands duo.

Sleaford Mods: Eton Alive – out 22nd February 2019 (Extreme Eating Recordings)

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From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.