Album Reviews

Sleaford Mods: Spare Ribs – “the venom is as potent as ever”

Britain’s finest return with yet another rough diamond.

“We’re all so Tory tired/And beaten by minds small/This beach is fucked/Point Break this ain’t/No one’s surfing here at all,” spits Sleaford Mods singer, Jason Williamson, on The New Brick – the opening cut from Spare Ribs.

It usually takes a bit longer to sink your claws into a Sleaford Mods record but on Spare Ribs, it takes 25 seconds before that familiar thought arises of, “Once again, they’ve nailed it.”

Many claim Britain to be a mean-spirited country. It’s hard to argue against and even though most of us are mentally frayed and falling apart at the seams in lockdown, try and look beyond – it’s not just here.

All through the Western world, right-wing governments have risen to power over the last decade. The ‘Mods may use lockdown/Brexit Britain as their fuel to burn on Spare Ribs, but their messages relate to wider terrains (Elon Musk is the worthy recipient of bile on the brilliant title track, for example).

And speaking of accelerants, the undercurrent of aggression has been simmering long before lockdown or indeed Brexit. The landscape has always been flammable and the rise of social media is the accelerant that has illuminated this new world into a burning pit of dread. Humanity’s ultimate platform to showcase its incessant failings.

While governments continue to self-serve and, in Britain’s case, handle the COVID-19 pandemic like a wet piece of soap, this is one of the reasons why we need a Sleaford Mods record more than ever. To “keep these bastards honest”. Because, let’s face it, no other fucker is.

Sleaford Mods: a voice for the voiceless

Amid this Tory government making things up as they go along, trampling the besieged via haphazard policies resulting in mass unemployment (see Spare Ribs highlight, Thick Ear), you’ve got people fawning over plastic influencers on Instagram and extracting instant gratification by any means possible.

Then there’s the darker stuff. The venomous trolling and its toxic results, not limited to racism, sexism, toxic masculinity and general hate towards one another (“It’s a suicide mission/To go online and knock the opposition.” – Elocution).

Shall we mention the flat-earthers, many of whom have slowly morphed themselves into anti-vaxxers? And let’s not forget the needless daily Amazon parcel deliveries from poor bastards killing themselves to live (All Day Ticket).

All this is just another day of lockdown Britain, folks. And there’s no better person to report on this screaming shitstorm than one Jason Williamson.

Sonically, Spare Ribs sees the ‘Mods finding new ways to dispense their fire and brimstone missives.

Williamson‘s searing hostility throughout landmark records, Divide & Exit, Key Markets, and English Tapas makes way for more, ‘traditional’ methods. Of course, we use this term in the loosest fashion because, let’s be honest, Sleaford Mods are traditionally untraditional.

Sleaford Mods - Spare Ribs

On 2018’s Eton Alive, Sleaford Mods explored and found the value of space, dialling down the profanity and wrenching in more melodies and sparse instrumentation through their songs. With Spare Ribs, Williamson and beats dispenser, Andrew Fearn, shine the torch deeper into these caverns. Make no mistake, though – the venom is as potent as ever. Given the times we are experiencing, one would be concerned if it were anything but.

Prior to Spare Ribs, you could never describe Sleaford Mods as hypnotic but that’s exactly what they showcase here. Look no further than the keys-laden Nudge It, featuring the equally unique Amy Taylor of Amyl and the Sniffers.

Inspired by former adviser to Boris Johnson and everyone’s favourite cunt, the ghost of Dominic Cummings haunts us on the lockdown blues that is Shortcummings. It’s vintage Sleaford Mods, mixing their razor-sharp humour with that underbelly of contempt.

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“I wish I had the time/To be a wanker just like you,” spits Williamson on Elocution – a song about their disingenuous peers on the train of careerism. No names are mentioned, but it’s not hard to work out who is being struck by Williamson‘s lightning bolts.

And the storm doesn’t stop there. Out There shines the torch on the current effects of both lockdown and Brexit, with Williamson channelling his anger through the average Joe’s perception on immigration. “Why’s this cunt got police protection/When he wasn’t even running in the last election,” questions Williamson also conceiving the grotesque imagery of being fucked by a horse. The song feels like Jolly Fucker‘s anxious younger brother.

Glimpse and Top Room also reach for the after-effects of Brexit, in particular trade and people partaking in needless consumerism.

Featuring Billy Nomates, Mork N Mindy is shrouded in Fearn‘s murky soundscapes as Williamson simmers through the lens that leads us to the ever increasing class gap that continues to blight the country.

Closing number, Fishcakes, sees gentrification settle firmly in Williamson‘s ire as he contemplates the past whilst entrenched in the present. It’s Williamson at his most pensive, to the point where Fishcakes is perhaps the most heartfelt ditty he’s written.

A decade ago, terms like hypnotic and heartfelt would have been laughed at when describing Sleaford Mods, but there’s truth to it in 2021. While the band’s aggressive exterior of the past isn’t replicated that doesn’t mean this is a band growing old gracefully. That would imply a certain contentedness and the day Sleaford Mods ever found themselves in this milieu, then they would be deemed about as relevant as the Gallaghers.

No, Spare Ribs will go down as an important chapter into the Sleaford Mods‘ story. It’s unlikely to win over new ears and the fact that a piece of art like this won’t have the desired impact highlights the core problem of society. A lot of us are sleepwalking and the few that aren’t continue to recede in numbers as they get older, being consumed by everyday life. It leaves the few left with little to no energy to push against that death train the Sleaford Mods have magnified more and more with each record.

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It’s yet more evidence that music is no longer a saviour or a primary emotional crutch. Perhaps if it were, we wouldn’t have Tory governments. Or austerity and it’s fierce domino effect, not least the current state of homelessness. Or, indeed, Brexit. Perhaps there wouldn’t have been a need for artists such as the Sleaford Mods in the first place?

It all seems like overwrought idealism or liberal naivety, probably a combination of both if you ask a Tory. In any case, we are where we are and for those that still need music to make an impact in their lives, Spare Ribs hits the mark.

It’s another intoxicating encounter that encapsulates a band finding new ways to unleash their rampant flair.

Spare Ribs is out now via Rough Trade. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

17 replies on “Sleaford Mods: Spare Ribs – “the venom is as potent as ever””

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