By Phil Scarisbrick
While the world is in a maelstrom of turmoil, and society prefers comforting lies over uncomfortable truths, who better to soundtrack our predicament than Sleaford Mods?
Sleaford Mods have never been a band who have ever felt the need to censor themselves, or deal in double entendres to find a roundabout way of getting to their point.There is also no need for them to do so. In a time when the political class has gone from being evasive when questioned, to having completely abandoned truth, straight talking is a refreshing antidote to this disdain. As the pressure cooker situation of a global pandemic, the culmination of a baffling Brexit project, and the transference of discourse to toxic social media platforms bubbles away, there has never been a time where the need for open wound honesty is more required.
‘I think I want something to come out of my phone that ain’t there,’ says frontman, Jason Williamson, on Top Room – a frenetic look at the ordeal of being locked up at home during lockdown, with your smartphone acting as the only conduit to the outside world, bringing nothing but misery. This all-too-real observation is something that most people can empathise with. Short Cummings takes aim at one of the chief architects of much of the anger that has been felt in Britain during the height of the first wave of the pandemic – Dominic Cummings. The soundtrack is a barebones drum machine and throbbing bass combo that has been a hallmark of the band, but the beats created by Andrew Fearn throughout this record certainly can’t be consigned to any formulaic scrapheap.
Amy Taylor featuring Nudge It has an edgy, uncomfortable feel that emphasises the contempt projected by Williamson and the Amyl and the Sniffers’ frontwoman. ‘You’re just a mime that’s praying and spraying on walls/And the after-effects are making my skin crawl,’ is the looping chorus refrain that is daubed on your psyche like the aforementioned spray on the walls. Elocution starts with Williamson inhabiting a faux-posh voice to describe the ridiculousness of people wanting to protect independent venues, but also trying their best not to play in them any more, while following track – Out There – takes aims at the lies that poor people are told about who to blame for their problems: ‘I wanna tell the bloke that’s drinking near the shop, that it ain’t the foreigners, and it ain’t the fucking cov, but he don’t care’ points to a society that would prefer comforting lies over uncomfortable truths.
The album’s title track looks at the proclivity of Spice on British streets, and the burgeoning homelessness crisis, while also taking aim at a Father Ted co-creator – ‘Like Graham Linehan/Bullshitter/Cos you actually hate women, don’t you,’ in reference to his relentless anti-trans campaign that ultimately saw him deplatformed by Twitter. Album closer, Fishcakes, offers a more sonically soft moment as Williamson brushes off the singing voice we heard on Eton Alive highlight, When You Come up to Me.
The world is an absolutely miserable place at the moment, which makes Spare Ribs a vital piece of work. Not necessarily to cheer you up, or impart enlightened truths, but to direct the anger, ire and frustrations at the targets that deserve it. It would be easy to focus simply on the lyrics, but Andrew Fearn’s beats are equally the stars of the show of what is a superb record.
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