By Alan Kenny
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Sleaford Mods are back with the same sound and bitterness

This article is over 1 years, 2 months old
Though it sometimes feels as if the band is holding back, there are solid tracks that deliver an angry punch on new album UK GRIM
Issue 2845
Andrew Fearn and Jason Williams of the band Sleaford Mods grimace in front of a pink background with the name of their album, UK Grim, superimposed on the image

Sleaford Mods on the cover of their new album

With UK GRIM you almost feel as if Sleaford Mods have finally decided to brand their own unique style of music.

As usual, Jason Williamson’s lyrics are frequently delivered like splintered, spattered fragments of conversations. He combines snapshots of daily life in Britain with social commentary, pop culture references, his own life and the occasional jab at politicians, the establishment and the ruling class. It’s quite the chaotic kaleidoscope that he conjures.

Sleaford Mods have trodden this path relentlessly over the course of several Tory governments—so what would they do that’s new? Many familiar themes are certainly here—frustrations with the music industry, social media, gentrification. As always, the lyrics are designed to pack an angry punch.

The music, the usual paired back keyboards and drum machine, is mostly just an accompaniment—inventive though that is. On this one they’ve pulled back from a slightly more expansive sound on the last album.

There’s a welcome return to some collaborations. Most successful is Florence Shaw from the band Dry Cleaning on the song Force 10 from Navarone. It’s a kind of duet that takes deadpan delivery to lofty new heights.

Williamson spends a lot of time describing alienation—a fight near a Sainsbury’s car park, people throwing up in the streets. Often this is all done in a tongue in cheek way, posed almost as a question—why does life in Britain feel like this? Who’s to blame? Is this it?

It’s difficult to work out whether some of the hipster types he’s calling out—on the brilliant So Trendy for example—are actual people or just designed as a generalised character assault. Perhaps it’s to his credit that it’s hard to know—it just sounds so personal and vitriolic.

And then he puts some blows into our rulers—Liz Truss, perhaps unsurprisingly, gets a mention. But for all that’s happened in the two years politically since their last album, it feels like Sleaford Mods are pulling some punches this time round.

The title track promises much in its heavy, foreboding opening bars—and it’s a good track. But the album then doesn’t really seem to kick back in until Right Wing Beast, track six.

Some of Sleaford Mods’ best songs are when they break out of their own carefully honed style and do something a little different. Apart from You stands out on this album.

UK Grim is a bit hit-and-miss to me—maybe not so conceptually tight or focussed. And there are definitely some songs I don’t mind if I never hear again.

But I will say that a Sleaford Mods live show is well worth catching—and I’d reserve judgement a little to see how some of the songs work there.

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