“I’ve got crisis stamina,” spits Sleaford Mods’ frontman Jason William on their new album’s opening title track ‘UK Grim’. It’s a decade to the year that the Nottingham post-punk duo started to break through with 2013’s aptly-titled ‘Austerity Dogs’ – barking a coarse “fuck off” back at David Cameron’s plum-mouth dismantling of what he called ‘Broken Britain’ with just a box of aggy sounds and some spoken-word rage; the rest of the UK music scene, meanwhile, were trying to perfect their Alex Turner quiff and swagger.
On their seventh album proper as a duo (12th if counting earlier rarities), the Mods follow-up 2021’s universally-acclaimed career-high ‘Spare Ribs’, a record that shrugged at the clusterfuck of COVID Britain. ‘UK Grim’ is a more aggressive beast, with multi-instrumentalist Andrew Fearn bringing more colour to their sound, continuing to add new depths to his compositions.
‘On The Ground’ is as close as Mods come to threatening the dancefloor; ‘Smash Each Other Up’ is what West Coast hip-hop sounds like when made in the East Midlands; ‘Right Wing Beast’ is a ska-pop attack on the powers that be. With A-listers like Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro and a playful electro-bounce, ‘So Trendy’ could have been a Gorillaz number if it weren’t such a delightfully snarky takedown of internet culture.
There’s rage aplenty – the junglist fury of ‘Tory Kong’, and D.I.Why’, a middle finger to keyboard warrior punk scene copyists – but there’s also a great deal of heart, introspection and subtlety on ‘UK Grim’. On ‘I Claudius’, Williamson whiles away the boredom and impending doom as a child at Christmas in the late ‘70s, and ‘Apart From You’ has a yearning not often associated with Mods. There’s a simmering dread to ‘Force 10 From Navarone’, assisted by Dry Cleaning’s Florence Shaw, an ode to struggle to keeping your head above the water in these wretched times.
You reach the closing ironically blissed-out tones of ‘Rhythms Of Class’ and feel like you’re cruising through Brexit Britain with the top down, much like Sleaford Mods’ recent music videos made by satirical collagist Cold War Steve; drifting through an absurdist fairground of the cartoon privileged where Nigel Farage bangs his frying pan, while Matt Hancock pisses on the elderly and Rishi Sunak wheels the cash away.
Williamson’s lyrical muse hasn’t changed much over the last 10 years. It’s less of the kitchen-sink melodrama and more of the dumpster fire shithousery; but the more the gloom becomes normalised, the more we need a band like Mods to fight back. As Williamson puts it on the title track, “in England, nobody can hear you scream”.
- Release date: March 10, 2023
- Record label: Rough Trade