The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Sleaford Mods
Divide And Exit Luke Turner , May 2nd, 2014 07:23

Sleaford Mods snap at you, lumber at you, insult you, your friends, probably some of your family too. They're a force of nature, of testosterone and English crossness; of bile and humour. Divide And Exit arrives a year and a short bit after Austerity Dogs, and the duo of Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn haven't been arsed to wait around for a label (there would surely be plenty ready to pick them up), instead sticking this right up on Bandcamp for free streaming and purchase. I spent a tenner, which seems reasonable when you're listening to a record that screams and strains with the effort, the desire, the anger and sheer force of personality that's gone into it. Divide And Exit is a record that demands you sit up and pay attention, unable to do anything else while it's on, a ticker-tape of frustration and smart tension blocking out peripheral vision.

This is Midlands white crap talking back, but you don't have to have an A to Z of their Nottingham home for it to make sense - you just need the "A to Z of nothing" (as they have it) that's a narrative of what's happening in England today. You don't even have to live on particularly grim streets to be able to empathise or understand what they're on about and why they're angry, or where they're coming from. These are vivid landscapes, as fine a document of the time they're painted in as a Hogarth, Gillray, or Mass Observation report.

Divide And Exit is music for anyone who reads the papers, looks at the news or spends more than half a minute on the internet and realises that there's something really rotten with Britain - no, England - at the moment. With hypocrisy and racism no hindrance to UKIP leading the polls, the numbers that supposedly herald an improving economy flashing but only the rich feeling the warmth, the connection between community, home, prosperity, work and pleasure in this country is completely awry, and nobody seems to be saying a damn thing about it. Labour? What do we get from them in a time where it feels like the only vocal opposition is an unlikely alliance of, say, the Church, food banks, and Sleaford Mods.

All of which is why I can't help but wonder whether Sleaford Mods might be about to, as they say, tap into the mood of the nation and become more than a fringe concern. This is music for anyone sick of the English cancer that is nostalgia, sick of Nigel Farage and his irregular goons as much as the dry personality bypassed dimwits in Westminster. It's for you if you've had enough of being blinded by the endless stream photos of fat little Prince George on tour Down Under, if you're queasy at cupcake cafe culture and endless aspirational articles on unattainable living from a media that patronises millions who just want to aspire to having a job.

For a start, it feels like this features their most accessible release to date - bear in mind that they're the sort of group who would often be found on bills with Philip Best's shrieking nasty Consumer Electronics. It does sound like early Fall, certainly, and John Cooper Clarke, and bits of the great Earl Brutus and yes, occasionally The Streets... though you do get the impression that Mike Skinner is the sort of berk that Sleaford Mods would have short shrift for these days. Within the simple bass growls and snapping ring pull rhythms lie peculiar choruses - I want to hear kids singing "The Corgi! The Corgi! No signs of pain!" at the bus stop. The succinctness, the taut energy comes perhaps from the frustration of years in bands ("I used to be in bands, fuckin hated it" their Bandcamp reads), and especially Mod bands, and that songwriting nous now coming out hard and fast via the means at their disposal. So there were indie bands in the past ten years who supposedly did State Of The Nation stuff, from The Enemy to Hard-Fi and Reverend & The Makers. But those groups for whatever reason only ended up sounding boorish, they never had this snapping originality, wit, drive and humour. Maybe it's 'cos this is rooted in piss and vinegar, not chipshop heroics and songs about 'birds'.

There's no point quoting all the lyrical slaps here, there are just too many. Buy the record and find them for yourselves, suffice to say "you fucking tit rifle" is insult of the year, and if you thought that "take a Year In Provence and shove it up your arse" line in Pulp's 'I Spy' was class war in pop, then this album's a whole Smash Hits of it. Many are their targets, and swiftly dealt with. There are constant references to the ephemera of the 80s and 90s, from Tiswas to Top Gun, but they're deployed not as an ironic device, rather as vehicles to attack: wacky TV and the musical "dinosaurs of Denmark Street" gets its booting on 'Tiswas', the Royal Family on 'The Corgi', hipster class tourists on 'You're Brave'. London is dealt with like car bombs coming down the M1 throughout. The core track is 'Under The Plastic And N.C.T.', three minutes and 18 seconds on a life of cradle to the grave via nights out with nobody listening - "the state is no longer your voice / the mechanics hijacked by the lies in false choice" - and railing against "thousands of Saturday lager bellies punching the air / denouncing the value of somebody else's flag / while viciously believing in theirs. Fucking useless". You name it, if it's English and bullshit, Sleaford Mods deliver a Nottingham Egging.

Some of the best music being made in England right now is happening from artists creating a lurid, livid portrait of a country that's not right in its head, but goes on barking as if it were still top dog all the same. The Eccentronic Research Council's flipped reality, Fat White Family's knackered perversion, the heinous laughing 'David & George' on Perc's The Power And The Glory. Nobody is doing it as explicitly as this duo though, and frankly it's a pleasure to for once hear music that's made with such bile, such attack.

Sleaford Mods force you to confront your own fecklessness, your own role and contribution to the English malaise. Sleaford Mods'd probably think I was a twat, and that's what I love about them. Yet you can't write these off as misanthropists. It's hard to place, maybe in the earnestness that's at the back of Williamson's voice, definitely in the humour, but it's as if with all this energy and anger (an attack is always more powerful when it's made by someone on something they love) Sleaford Mods want to do right by this country. There's not many you can say that of, in the spring of 2014.