“We’re all Tory tired/ beaten by minds small,” declares vocalistJason Williamsonon the opening interlude ‘The New Brick,’ making it clear that latest album Spare Ribs will not be a deviate from the duo’s character as a megaphone for the disenchanted.
Perfectly capturing the current discontent for the nation’s misery, from Conservative cronyism to a botched pandemic response; Williamson’s distinctive political snipes are laid over instrumentalist Andrew Fearn’s minimalist grooves. ‘Shortcummings,’ a catchy but repetitive track, led by a strong bass hook, is a rather limp jab at former Number 10 advisor Dominic Cummings. Reflective lockdown track ‘Out There’ does a much better job at his character assassination, “Why’s this c*nt got police protection?/ He wasn’t even running in the last election,” making the Mods’ feelings towards the current leadership crystal clear.
On Spare Ribs the band takes aim at Elon Musk, seemingly comparing the Tesla billionaire to controversial industrialist Henry Ford for added barb. While instrumentals in the Mods’ work typically take a back seat to Williamson’s vocals, ‘All Day Ticket’ gives space for Fearn’s trance like beats to firmly steal the show. Guest appearances also breathe fresh air into the album, with Billy Nomates’ smooth vocals offsetting Williamson’s Sprechgesang on ‘Mork n Mindy’ and Amyl and The Sniffers’ Amy Taylor making a bombastic appearance on ‘Nudge it’.
Besides the political anger, Sleaford Mods make their disdain for those they deem to be music industry careerists loud and clear. On ‘Elocution,’ a drum-driven track raving about co-opting social causes to get ahead, and again on ‘I Don’t Rate You,’ “When the band aren’t seething over political injustice, they’re slagging off all who have wronged them, Blokes commercial, boring twat/ I don’t really like things like that”, Williamson shouts his sermon over unsettling electronic warbles. ‘Nudge It’ drives home the point even further, “This ropey idea about love and connection/ Just stuck on silly ideas/ ‘Cause it’s all you can cook/ You fucking class tourist.”
Debates around classism and class tourism in the creative industries isn’t something new, see Pulp’s jibe “Nobody likes a tourist” on Common People for example. In fact, the discussion feels more important than ever, given how the impact of austerity and Brexit’s on touring threaten to make music a career option only for the middle and aristocratic classes. Taking to Twitter, the band described their views clearly: “Reduced circumstance isn’t a pantomime. If you haven’t lived within its confines don’t use it to enamour your ideas. It confuses the platform for those that truly live it and more often than not buries creative breakthroughs because the arena is polluted by the view of their world through someone else’s privileged lense.”
Sleaford mods have gained a reputation for controversy and they’ve never hidden their feelings for anyone they deem as poseurs. The criticisms will obviously come across as harsh to their seemingly well-intentioned targets, but you have to give Sleaford Mods credit for asking the difficult questions, no matter how uncomfortable they make us feel. At times the album can feel relentless with all the harsh beats and shouting, like you’re trapped in a debate you’re desperately trying to escape from.
Sleaford Mods have in the past been compared to ‘a weird man ranting in a pub who you avoid’ – but unlike your local gobshite, they have actually got something worthwhile to say. Spare Ribs pins down all the worst aspects of England which have floated up to the top in the past few years. Making it their most poignant album to date.