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White. Loud. Angry: Sleaford Mods Live By Kev Kharas
Kev Kharas , April 30th, 2014 05:01

12 Bar Club, Friday 25th April. The British geezer is under threat, his pleasures denied, mocked and ignored by the media, and apparently prey to the temptations of the EDL. In Sleaford Mods, asks Kev Kharas, has he found a voice?

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"I'm sick of trying to hold it down / I just want to get fucked up all the time / I wanna leave work / go pub / buy drugs / and fucking spit at people"

England today must be a lonely place for men like Jason Williamson. It's a country that just doesn't seem designed for him any more; 40-ish working-class ex-mod, a face that looks built from belly gas and fag ash, too savvy for UKIP and too hard for steroids, too old for lad culture but too young for early nights. And yet the Sleaford Mods frontman cares about the country he lives in so dearly he's already written seven albums' worth of elegies to it – tough love laments dedicated to the way we drink, fight, lie, cheat, boast, fuck and fuck each other over today. But for all that it'd be wrong to say that Williamson revels in misanthropy. He never seems to be enjoying himself enough for that. It's more that he's a man with a social conscience trapped in a society that hates him.

There's been a lot of hype surrounding the plight of Britain's sad young men – today's lad, the imported douchebag frat cuckoo whose sheer steroided bulk is squeezing the archetypes of young, homegrown masculinity that have served us perfectly well down the years – the boy racer, the grebo, the sensitive loner, the wiry, gimlet-eyed estate pyromaniac with the constant unnerving grin and the brothers in the army – out of the social nest.

But what about Britain's sad middle-aged men? What about its geezers? Where are their thinkpieces? People don't have much time for the geezer any more, at least partly because they no longer seem to understand what the geezer is. They've been sold this idea that geezers are people like Dave Berry, Alex Zane, George Lamb, Mark Wright, Callum Best and a Rohypnol bachelor army of wizened gym freaks with all-year Ibiza tans, gap-year bracelets and 20 years on their latest, embarrassed sexual conquests.

But clearly these men are not geezers, even if they are, in their own way, immaculately repugnant. With geezers, there's lineage, there's dirt. There's currently an ambient-level cultural war being waged upon the geezer – his pubs are being shut, his cigarettes are being digitised, society and CCTV stops him fighting, his profoundly shit diet is being denigrated every single day in the do-gooder media – and so, in a weird kind of way, geezers now seem to possess a certain amount of soul; the substance of the persecuted.

Whereas the men I described previously – the Lambs, the Berries – are nothing but cultural aberrations, walking Carnaby dolls invented by the telly to sell Boots perfume counter-masculinity to housewives and make Noel Fielding seem like less of a cunt on Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Jason Williamson would never present a TV clip show about funny cat videos. For a start, he's a dog man, and not the kind of dog that lives in Alex Zane's fucking handbag.

When Sleaford Mods take to the stage at 12 Bar tonight they fill the room with threat. Williamson scowls, picks his nose, fills his chin with his tongue, shakes his head from side to side so fast with his big, fat neck that it appears to be in three different places at once. During 'Donkey', he dances like an Egyptian. During 'Jobseeker' and 'Jolly Fucker' the bile pisses from him like green ink, each track a ransom note addressed to a world that can't wipe the smirk off its face. Luke Haines and Stewart Lee are in the room, which is a higher recommendation than you might think, given that these are men who appear to hate everything.

For someone who spent years in Mod bands that were, by his own admission, "cheesy wastes of time", Williamson twitches onstage like a recently exposed nerve, hijacking your internal monologue, forging a path out of purgatory for 50-odd years of shit Who copyists. What a fantastic way to put musicians out of their misery. What a brilliant way to re-weaponise yourself.

Alongside him is his weird mate Andrew Fearn, who wobbles back and forth in a Rambo T-shirt, trackies and snapback. Fearn looks like the sort of man you see taking the baby out for a pram ride with a can of Stella on a Sunday afternoon and the backing tracks he operates are horribly effective. I say "operates" but really, he just pushes the button at the start and off they go – basslines that sound like mardy bus drivers grumbling about their superiors on their fag break, drums that sound like Stomp if it were just one lonely pissed guy slapping a bin. And Sleaford Mods' musical landscapes are artfully completed by the occasional dog bark and belch.

That they need literally nothing else to get your gut more excited about British music than it has been since it shat out the last decent dregs of grime tells you all you need to know about their antidotal properties. As does the fact that, thus far, they've still not been on Pitchfork. Hope you're still enjoying that Slint reissue, guys!

The night after they play 12 Bar, Sleaford Mods are due to play in Brighton. They don't make it:

Which is a shame, because earlier that day a lost-looking band of post-EDL nationalist grunts had made their way to the seaside to get kettled in pubs, scare the children and punch anti-fascists in the head. It's an interesting scenario to entertain – the idea of a ragtag gang of Nazis managing to stick it out in Brighton long enough to somehow stumble back up the hill to the Prince Albert pub, getting a round in and watching Sleaford Mods: avowed haters of Thatcher, UKIP, right-wing bastardry in general but also white, loud, angry.

Would the fascists have been able to see through the aggression to notice the cavern of political difference between themselves and Williamson? Would Williamson have taken the opportunity to land some gob on the heads of some of his favourite targets?

"St George's flag on white van / this is the human race / this is the human race / UKIP and your disgrace / chopped heads on London streets / all you zombies, tweet tweet tweet" In the end, none of the above happens; both Williamson and the fascists are AWOL. Instead, Fearn plays their new album Divide And Exit over the speaker system, handing out CDs and vinyl and generally being a pleasant guy to disappointed people. You can't imagine that's a pose Sleaford Mods will have to strike too often in the future and you hope that Williamson doesn't succumb to too many more of those "old demons".

After all, for this ex-raver who woke up screaming from a prolonged doze in 'Memory Lane Mod', there are more than enough demons to do battle with already. Like breakfast cereal, shit drugs, shit towns, vegetarian vets, Tories, Lou Reed, three months of rain, Shoreditch, giggling Friday night cistern gangs. Cunts. Crap. Careerists. Complacency. Shit geezers. Fuck off.

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ad hominem
Apr 30, 2014 9:33am

I was at the brighton no show, it was a funny night in the end. Fearn did really well to hold the crowd on his own for over an hour. he seemed shy at first but by the end was totally mullered cos everyone kept buying him drinks. Still, would've been better with both of them there.

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ad hominem
Apr 30, 2014 9:36am

well, i say 'crowd' - there were only 15 or so of us by that point - and that included a stag do that had staggered into the venue on a whim and two very confused looking japanese tourists.

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Rory Gibb
Apr 30, 2014 9:46am

Fantastic stuff, Kev. Really must actually spend some time listening to this lot, I've only ever dabbled, but never inhaled, so to speak.

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Apr 30, 2014 10:02am

Being pissed off it not enough, I don't want another Blaggers ITA thanks

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Jim
Apr 30, 2014 10:24am

Think you've got your chronology wrong on the MFE, it was the day after the gig.

I was pissed off about the no show (especially when I heard they'd been handing out vinyl that I spent good money on a couple of hours earlier!) but Jason's mea culpa was fair enough I guess as long as he doesn't make a habit of it.

The venue they return to play in Brighton in October is around 3 times the size and I'm fairly sure they'll be capable of selling it out by then. I can see SM appealing to a fairly diverse group of people.

Soemhow, I can't see Pitchfork getting it.

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ad hominem
Apr 30, 2014 11:15am

In reply to Jim:

hi jim - i've been assured by the agency i bought (4!) tickets for saturday from that the October venue will accept our 'used' tickets - fingers crossed!

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Alex Burrows
Apr 30, 2014 12:05pm

Excellent review.

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Nizzy
Apr 30, 2014 1:43pm

I like the sound of these chaps. "Imported douchebag frat cuckoo" sounds like a great M.E.S. line, by the way.

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Sonicred
May 1, 2014 9:37am

This review tells me more about what angers the author in popular culture and tv presenters than it does about SMs, They're an interesting band. However, this kind of hyperbolic ranting - and points scoring off Pitchfork (really??) - is a little lame. Dave Berry and George Lamb are not this nations, nor the modern UK mans, problems.

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stuart
May 1, 2014 12:47pm

I actually listened to them after reading this - fantastic stuff

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John Calvert
May 2, 2014 1:45pm

Brilliant writing

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The Beatnik Fuzzbomb
Jun 22, 2014 11:30pm

Puts me in mind of 'Snap Crackle & Bop' era John Cooper Clarke collaborations with Martin Hannett et al. More 'Evidently Chickentown' than 'I Can't Explain'! Much more aggressive & existentially pissed off than the Thin White Bard of course & whilst it's not my cup o' meat I'm glad they're there & good luck to 'em!

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nicholas evans
Oct 27, 2014 11:01pm

jolly fuckers !

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