29 Jul 2015

Sleaford Mods / Key Markets (album review)

Whether you’ve read about them slagging off Slaves, ranting about the government or absolutely slaying Glastonbury, chances are you’ve heard a lot about Sleaford Mods in the last couple of months. Sure, some of it is clever PR stuff but they genuinely deserve attention and they have a lot to say. Reading and watching interviews with them is refreshing, vocalist Jason Williamson is as honest and blunt as he is in his lyrics and beat-maker Andrew Fearn is far more eloquent and intelligent than his catchy but crude music and questionable onstage dancing suggest. This exciting cocktail of intelligence, exasperation and honesty is what brought Sleaford Mods to their first big critical success after many attempts with last year’s Divide and Exit. A nationwide tour later, the pair have returned with Key Markets to a surprising but promising amount of hype.

Opening the album is Live Tonight, which could fool you into thinking that the group haven’t stepped up at all from Divide and Exit. Williamson’s bark phlegms out venom whilst Fearn’s backdrop is a catchy bassline and tinny drums. Business as usual. Enjoyable? Yes. But thankfully it gets even better from here onwards. 2nd track No One’s Bothered has a manic drum beat, varied vocal deliveries from Williamson and an incredibly catchy hook. It’s an early-album highlight and probably their most accessible song to date. This sort of beat is clearly a sound that Fearn is keen on, with quite a few tracks on the album sounding very similar to it. I’d have to put it down as a criticism that as excellent as the sound is, when repeated over too many songs it becomes uninspired to say the least. On the other end of the band’s spectrum is the heavy, swaggering beat of Silly Me. Incredibly it features actual singing from Williamson, in the same sort of way that Mark E Smith sings. In fact this song has a lot in common with The Fall; with the chugging bass and accent-heavy vocals are massively reminiscent of the group. As with a lot of this album’s lyrics, Silly Me is vicious and sarcastic. You’d shit yourself if you were on the other end of Williamson’s frustration but sitting safely in the confines of a CD, his words are seriously entertaining.

Key Markets is sweary, vulgar and occasionally crude. I’m pretty sure Tarantula Deadly Cargo is at least partially about farting, though I could be wrong. “Cunt”, “fuck” and “shit” are thrown around like toys from a pram. The language is aimed at everyone and everything, whether offending the listener, Boris on a bike (“quick, knock the cunt over!”) or poor old Ed Miliband the album is full of rage. Sadly, sometimes the lyrics end up teetering on the edge of becoming tiresome and repetitive and the band’s strong political and social opinions occasionally become lost behind a thick oozing layer of vulgarity and humour. At times it’s as though Sleaford Mods are afraid of becoming too bookish and informed; for example; calling Ed Miliband ugly and saying he “wants the country in tatters” does seem like quite an obvious and easy way to get a laugh. In fairness it is pretty fucking funny, as is most of this album. There’s a real schadenfreude involved when laughing at Williamson’s contempt and frustration with the world, and his lyrics roll off the tongue brilliantly. His vocal delivery is somewhere between having a chat with a mate in a shithole pub selling watered down shots, and screaming obscenities at the referee from the touchline of a non-league football ground.

Despite the band’s best attempts at making it otherwise, Key Markets is a pleasant listening experience. Never verging into uncomfortably angry territory and stuffed full with accessible minimalist beats it’s classic Sleaford Mods at their best. Combining this with a few more ambitious and melodic songs, the pair have taken the next step to their world domination. Once these two unlikely heroes are in charge however, I’m not sure how long we’ll all last before being nuked into oblivion for our own good. What’s the price of a few more billion people down the gutter if it gets rid of Boris too, eh? As long as it’s soundtracked by Sleaford Mods, I don’t care.


(written by ruben clark)