Album Review: Sleaford Mods – English Tapas

Nobody wants to be the new Joe Strummer, or Ian Curtis or Henry Rollins anymore, they all wanna be Gary Barlow. An endless stream of delusional chumps, born to sing, who just want to play stadiums every weekend (even Queen didn’t play stadiums every weekend). Play your cards right and you could be just like last year’s winner, adrift and obscure with a record deal that’s worth less than an Oxfam copy of 50 Shades of Grey. Still, the people are getting their country back, which is gonna be like when you finally got your Subutteo game back from the kid who lived opposite, and the pitch was all ripped and half the players’ heads were missing.

Paving paradise and putting up a parking lot no longer sounds hellish, we’re way beyond that now. We’re staring into the abyss, so what better setting for a band like Sleaford Mods. They’re like the drifter in ‘They Live’; the only ones with bullshit-detector shades, shaking their heads in disbelief. The album title originates from a sign Andrew Fearn saw in a pub, proposing half a scotch egg, a mini pork pie and a pickled onion. A perfect metaphor for everything that’s grinding their gears, and under current circumstances the UK isn’t about to run out of subject matter anytime soon for them to write about.

Format-wise it’s still back to basics backing music, raw and driving. A gritty platform for Jason Williamson to elucidate his barbed rants over. His targets are steroid-fuelled T.A. lads (‘Army Nights’), has-been and never-will-be online pop stars (‘Just like We Do’- which incidentally is almost a fucked up reworking of Cameo’s ‘Word-Up’), hipsters, cokeheads and the optimism-shrivelling sheer naffness of modern times.

Like John Cooper Clarke, Williamson is bang-on critical, yet spit yer beer out hilarious, tragi-comic, echoing Half-Man-Half-Biscuit’s gift of nailing the petty crapness. The backing music seems almost second fiddle until you realise that it’s setting the tone perfectly,impeccably doing its job, tweaking your irritation to optimum receptive frequency. Cultural references are scattered like bread for the seagulls, a lapse in attention and you’ll miss them. On first listen the songs seem throwaway, on the second you feel like you’ll be decoding them for months.

‘Carlton Touts’ is a rant of bubbling intensity, frustration coming from all angles; TVs in pubs, storecards, over-inflated prices, all over a semi-‘Totally Wired’ groove. ‘Drayton Manor’ is the ‘E’ generation’s paranoia coming of age, where “a trip to Spar is like a trip to Mars”, complete with cheeky bleeps. ‘Time Sands’ borders on singing, as does ‘I Feel So Wrong’, somewhere between Rotten and Dury, and as vocally abrasive as that blend suggests. It could herald mellowing with age, but considering they spent some angry years simmering in a world of jobsworth bollocks, honing their vitriolic retort, I don’t think that’s a concern.

On paper, many have said their flatpack approach would have petered out by now, but on the evidence of this album, I don’t think the UK is going to be getting off the hook anytime soon.

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