Sleaford Mods

Key Markets

Sleaford Mods are currently enjoying a long-awaited moment of keen public interest. With a triumphant Glastonbury appearance and a sold-out tour of delapidated small towns behind them, collaborations with the Prodigy and Leftfield completed, a further national tour and documentary imminent, and even an NME-pleasing feud with drivelling twats Slaves to their names, they’ve become the darlings of a certain type of music bloke. You know the one: the guy who’ll tell you it’s great to see politics back in the music. The guy who’ll [dis]miss the political implications of pop, who’ll have a concern-troll crywank in public after a single showing of Rihanna’s ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ video. That guy. The guy who reckons this lot are heirs to the Jam.

"We have lost the sight. And in our loss of sight

We have lost our fucking minds alright" (‘Face To Faces’)

It is one of the more asinine shibboleths of music culture that there is currently a dearth of political music. At its heart this belief springs from a narrow and inadequate understanding of what politics is, what it contains, what its effects are. During austerity, at times of severe political tension, violence of all kinds increases. This is why street harassment, racist abuse, domestic violence, are all escalating.

Key Markets, like its predecessors Wank, Austerity Dogs and Divide And Exit, brilliantly enumerates these everyday brutalities: Jason Williamson’s lyrics target creepy middle managers, gropey promoters, "comedy mods, Les Dawson sods", the "bitter minds on seats with pints", alongside the political figures who inflict the larger violences both on them, and on their behalf. ‘Cunt Make It Up’ berates a local music figure, one moment comparing him to quiff hams Rocket From The Crypt, the next conjuring up a dystopian allegory of a drunk amputee living alone, hating the state for sending him to war. The lines’ internal rhymes tumble fast and desolate as the scene develops. "You’re him! You fucking bleak little worm, trying to suck the juice out of a tuna tin," Williamson concludes. It’s one part ODB, two parts John Osborne. It’s incredible.

Under and alongside the invective, Key Markets has some newly complex and skilful beats. Andrew Fearne foregrounds his love of rave on standout track ‘Giddy On The Ciggies’, and his basslines contend for syllabic space with Williamson on ‘In Quiet Streets’ and ‘Arabia’. The result is urgent, airless, but never overcrowded. Fearne, best known for laconic button-pressing and tin-sucking onstage, is a careful and a knowledgeable beatmaker; it’s to this record’s advantage that his tracks are starting to demand their fair share of attention. Radio favourite ‘Tarantula Deadly Cargo’ matches a bare-bones bass figure with glassy, spare guitar and double-tracked vocals from Williamson. The effect is alienated, derealised, a gamer asleep in the chair. "We put our souls in nursery for the day," Williamson observes on ‘In Quiet Streets’. Key Markets is full of these moments, recording loss and failure, betrayal and collusion. As the nation succumbs to its current state of electoral euphoria, it’s good to be reminded – from Nottingham, home of the UDM – of the less palatable political truths.

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