(no.2) ANGER IS AN ENERGY: THE LIBERATION MUSIC OF SLEAFORD MODS Recordings “T.C.R.”/”LIVE AT SO36″/”ENGLISH TAPAS” I must confess that the first time I heard Sleaford Mods I felt like Butthead saying to Beavis as they were watching Rage Against The Machine, “Woah! Beavis, this guy is so pissed off!” Indeed, the Lp, “Austerity Dogs” (2013), was something altogether different–a hissing, sucker punch of vitriol and singularly British sentiment that recalled Johnny Rotten et al., except in the place of guitars were spare beats and thudding bass lines, catchy and angry as fuck. Yes, please.  Jason Williamson-lyrics and voice, Andrew Fearn, music, have now gone on to wide acclaim  overseas and have a growing, and deserved reputation as an absolutely crushing live act (Sleaford Mods 1st U.S. Show, Brooklyn 12/14). “Divide and Exit” (2014), and “Key Markets”(2015)–further deepened their skills, and then last year the duo released an e.p., “TCR,” and a live set recorded at infamous club SO36 in Berlin.  Shortly thereafter they signed to Rough Trade for the new Record “English Tapas.”  The song “TCR”(Total Control Racing) is one of the catchiest tunes SM have ever recorded, with a pinging keyboard line and memorable lyrics (“Go and listen to some garage punk–you pointy little tit!”), that cruise along like the slot cars they handle in the accompanying video.  Williamson speaks/raps/sings (increasingly) in a distinct brogue and vernacular that is honest and direct, and reveals a nimble and clever lyricist, alternately reflective, annoyed, hilarious, or raging full on in an instant. “TCR,”a 5-song e.p., is a neat snapshot of the Mods aesthetic in the studio, while “Live at SO36” is a burner, by the fourth song “A little Ditty” Williamson is sufficiently wound up and the energy crackles. Fan favorite “Fizzy” is a scorcher, dedicated to “managers.”  In fact, of the numerous high quality videos online of the Mods live, the tension and release they achieve can be breathtaking.  The contrast of Williamson’s all in commitment, juxtaposed with Fearn’s bemused, grooving countenance, standing back, often drinking a beer, watching it all unfold is classic (live, Fearn triggers the music via laptop).  Released earlier this month, “English Tapas” fulfills and expands the Mods pallet, with a noticeable uptick in groove (“Messy Anywhere”, “Time Sands”) and space.  In fact, there’s lovely, subtle variations in feel and execution, and herein I must fly the full flag for the quiet man, Andrew Fearn.  While the focus, obviously, shines bright on Williamson, Fearn’s contribution and skill in framing the architecture for the entire aesthetic cannot be underestimated.  Musical reference points could be early Wire (“Carlton Touts”), or minimalist masters Trio (unbelievably underrated and forgotten).  Williamson himself has spoke of the inspiration gained from 90’s rap, extolling Wu Tang Clan especially.  Overall, there’s more of a mid-tempo vibe to “English Tapas” than previous efforts, which, to these ears, only sets off Williamson’s lyrics and story telling in clearer terms.  A noted critic of Brexit–and suspended member of the Labor party–Williamson gives voice to the working class, their struggles, and the ongoing challenge to find meaning in a world that is increasingly fueled by class division, misunderstanding, prejudice, and outright hypocrisy by those who are supposed to represent and work for the rest of us (check “Invisible Britain”). The last song on the record, “I Feel So Wrong” ends with the line, “A plunging death of everything, the death of harmonies,” followed by the repeating line of the title.  Wow. The Sleaford Mods have done it again, and proved unequivocally that they are the most authentic and exciting group in the world right now. They embark on their first U.S. tour later this month. RATING: EXCEPTIONAL


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s