Sleaford Mods (Jason Williamson: voice, Andrew Fearn: beats) are a far cry from what they’re lazily branded as — “the voice” of someone or other, the scourge of whatever. It’s a reduction that dishonours all parties. At times they’re written off/commended for being a sort of northern Punch and Judy show, with phrases like “hard” and “crackheads” often being attributed to them.
Their critics chortle them off as caricatures, while the other camp champions them as their new working class heroes; boldly knocking on the doors of Westminster with a jabbing finger and some earth-shattering manifesto.
But they are neither.
They’re splashing about in the Trent, tearing their hair out and vomiting and laughing rabidly. You see, Sleaford Mods don’t have any answers. Not for you, not for the “underclass”, not for anyone. They barely even have a question, besides “what’s the fucking point?”
And not in the last 10 years has that age-old, desperate, table-flip of a question been expressed so brilliantly — so plainly — as in the minimalist, black-coffee-bass-laden songs of the Sleaford Mods. They manage to harness the humdrum with the same everyman eloquence as Mike Skinner and John Cooper Clarke — gloomy and mundane, but somehow poetic. Jason Williamson swings between frothing rage and sardonic apathy; often colliding both tenets to spine-tingling effect:
Tied up in Nottz, with a Z, you cunt
Black t-shirts and state toss
Nobby’s nuts, the rule of rough cuts
A to Z of nothing gets all the shiz
We are real, we are lucky, 20p in the 10p mix
Crab eyes, another lonely little DJ with no fuckin’ life
Weetabix, England, fuckin’ shredded wheat, Kellogs cunts
On bleak shiz, on our cock, the green light don’t stop
The shit home-grown dealers of Berlin begging for lolly
And it’s beautiful how the privileged still let ’em in
Sleaford Mods aren’t about preaching or rallying, they are “an explanation of frustration.” To engage the Houses of Parliament implies a connection on some civilised level and Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn (along with sizable chunk of Britons) don’t acknowledge any such dialogue. It’s been gagged by payment plans, package holidays and an array of Trojan fuck-overs.
The disenfranchised are constantly nullified and/or ridiculed. Hell, they’re even carted out on prime time TV and laughed at. People are so disillusioned by the whole thing that we’ve now reached a stage of abandon. And that’s what the Mods articulate so well:
We range the view, we do
Dead will fall, no one’s bothered
You’re trapped, me too
Alienation, no one’s bothered
The question on their frothing lips is purely rhetorical. As far as Sleaford Mods are concerned, there is no fucking point. There’s no trust anymore. When you witness our supposed leaders and protectors actively fleecing and condemning, with impunity, our society’s most vulnerable — the poor, the disabled, the uneducated — it’s difficult not to turn your back in disgust.
We’ve got to a point in our society that’s beyond protest. Most people’s idea of ‘activism’ boils down to clicking ‘attending’ on some limp-dicked picketing event page. There’s very little belief in the political system anymore. Most don’t even bother trying to comprehend it.
It’s actually a very lonely state of affairs. People feel isolated, forgotten. You know there’s money somewhere; we’re constantly bombarded with all the shiny things we can buy with it, but most aren’t allowed into the club. You queue for 40 odd years, lusting after the flashing lights streaming out the window, watching all the other lot let their mates slip in ahead of you, while you graft away, furiously aware that the joint wouldn’t even be open if the punters hadn’t bought a ticket.
The prospect of smashing the windows in and robbing the place grows more attractive by the year. Aren’t we past the whole ‘us and them’ thing by now? Clearly not.
Sleaford Mods lyricise us lot’s reaction to all of that, whether by parody or good old fashioned bellowing: irreverence, pub chat, drug chat, tribalism, heinous scapegoating, kamikaze rage and, most preciously, comedy.
Promote yourself, look like a cunt
Vodka parties. Cushioned walls in a shit club
I ain’t bothered where it goes; I’ve got a job
I’ll rot away in the aisles of the Co-op mate, no prob
French Fancies, Mr Kipling, acid dances
Let’s laugh at local record plants
Elitist hippies, arrogant cunts, Ian Beale, tight trunks,
Tight pants, grammar wanker. Walk the plank, pirate mankey
Sixty kids, where’s mine? Wasting money on shit coffee all the time
Fish fingers, take the batter off. I can’t believe you had kids. Fuck off!
More often than not, Sleaford Mods are hilarious. It’s vital to their appeal. No one wants to be held accountable for through the medium of shouting. They vocalise the nihilism — the austerity hangover — and they do it with a two-fingered, northern swagger that is utterly arresting to behold.
I had the chance to ask Jason a couple of questions and he answered in true Sleaford Mods fashion.
Jason — you’re in your 40s now. Why has the compulsion to voice these lyrics in the form of Sleaford Mods come about in this stage of your life? Why do you think it’s hitting so hard now?
Not sure. It’s just happened this way. It’s hitting now because things are so overtly fucked. It’s full of humour too so people don’t necessarily tell you to fuck off to soap box land.
What do you think it’s gonna take to shake up the younger generation’s state of apathy? Is it a case of more musicians and the like talking about things that matter? Is it a lost cause?
I don’t think music will alert the youth, not now. I’d be surprised if it did. Perhaps when the elite start biting their limbs off things might change in that camp.
Jason — you have so many voices and characters in your lyrics. Where do these streams of dialogue come from? The pub? The poets? Both?
Just thought processes and what would be best. I’m not inspired by poets really. More, actual life.
What’s the nuttiest fan encounter either of you have had?
None really. They’re all decent people mostly.
What’s the deal with having Andrew up there with you in your live shows?
He just is. It’s a finger up to over performance and a new route for those who produce that hate the idea of jumping around like a twat
What’s the secret behind being political without coming off as preachy (as you do so well)?
Can’t give away office secrets
Do you think artists today scared of being seen to have a political agenda or do they and their audience just not care enough?
People ain’t bothered. I wasn’t at 25 although I’ve always hated wankers and I had more about me than being conned into a shit fucking record deal and wheeled out like a daft cunt.
The Nottingham duo are playing Field Day, 11 June. If you’re around Victoria Park over the weekend, I urge you come down and witness their bone-rattling live show.