ALBUM REVIEW: Sleaford Mods – ‘Spare Ribs’: one of their best to date

MINIMALIST Nottingham outfit Sleaford Mods have returned with Spare Ribs, another album overflowing with bitter bangers, attacking anyone from politicians and Elon Musk to charlatan musicians and provincial racists.

Sleaford Mods know what they do well and never veer too far off the path of angry rants over bass-led beats; however, they always come up with the goods and Spare Ribs is no exception.

Opener “A New Brick” acts as a prologue, vocalist Jason Williamson introducing themes of political impotence and desperation while playing the character of a circus ringmaster-cum-market vegetable salesman.

The album then gets going with “Short Cummings”, a barbed attack on the Prime Minister’s former chief advisor Dominic Cummings that still manages to remain infectiously catchy. Over a chunky Andrew Fearn bass loop, Williamson questions: “When did I get so fucking down on my knees?”.

Next up is “Nudge It”, which features a thumping 808 beat complemented by distorted guitars and a single repeated piano note that, in its admirable mix of styles, sounds as much like The Stooges as Wu-Tang Clan, the group that originally inspired the formation of Sleaford Mods. Lyrically, the song appears to be a follow-up attack on IDLES frontman Joe Talbot, with the references to “class tourists” and “ticking boxes with the subjects for political scores” harking back to an earlier claim that their music is “cliched, patronising, insulting and mediocre”. “Nudge It” also features Amy Taylor of Australian punks Amyl and The Sniffers, who delivers a snarling verse towards the end of the track.

“Out There” keeps the album rolling with its grimy, metallic beat, Williamson commenting on his sobriety – “necking soft drinks in a Sydney bar was just really good though wan’t it” and the newfound discovery of how stupid drugged-up Australians sound – “people talking shit on mandy”. Meanwhile, “Glimpses” provides a rare upbeat moment in Sleaford Mods’ catalogue as the vocals move away from shout-speak to more melodic singing. In some respects, the track feels like a relapse considering the groups stated attempt to escape a standard verse/chorus/bridge structure; in any case it provides a needed break from the onslaught of frothing anger.

Lead single “Mork N Mindy”, is probably the best thing the duo have released since “Jobseeker”. Andrew Fearn’s beat pulses menacingly with rumbling sub-bass frequencies and foghorn loops, while Williamson delivers some of his funniest lyrics to date – “WiFi’s gone all lo-fi and my arse is feeling too dry”. What completes the track is Billy Nomates; her faux-American accent has grit and personality, seamlessly complementing the Sleaford Mods sound.

The remainder of the album never quite hits the same highs as “Mork N Mindy”, but it’s still remarkably consistent. The beat on “I Don’t Rate You” is filled with industrial sound effects and is hauntingly atmospheric compared with the rest of the album, but the subject matter of “All Day Ticket” does beg the question: Is it time for Williamson to stop “banging on about shit wages and kebabs”, as Fat White Family jibed last year? Regardless of the jokey nature of the statement, I’m inclined to agree that it might be time to think about moving on.

In any case, closer “Fishcakes” is brilliant, a moment of genuine emotional poignancy focusing on the nature of youth and upbringing, a fitting end to an excellent record.

Spare Ribs is one of Sleaford Mods’ strongest albums to date and serves as a reminder that it is they who are the founding fathers of the current UK alternative trends – post-punk revivalism or whatever you wish to call it – more unique, more interesting and more exciting than any of the groups that followed in their path.

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