Perennial champions for the beleaguered and discontent, Sleaford Mods mark the end of their second Berlin trilogy with UK Grim.
Since the blood and thunder of Austerity Dogs, the era-defining three-pronged assault of Divided and Exit, Key Markets and English Tapas, through to their current dominance which has spawned Eton Alive and Spare Ribs, Sleaford Mods have been the essential voice for over a decade now.
While the impact of 2021’s Spare Ribs was perhaps blunted by the throes of lockdown, UK Grim sees Sleaford Mods wielding a freshly sharpened butcher’s knife in what is their bleakest passage in their already morose manifesto.
UK Grim succinctly captures the collective emotion. Where’s the hope? And if you find it, what’s the point? Things aren’t changing anytime soon, and Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn are neither prepared to sell us down the river nor deliver fictitious niceties that will inevitably end in yet another false dawn. After all, we’ve got a government exclusively dealing in that arena.
“In England nobody can hear you scream/ You’re just fucked,” states Williamson throughout the opening title track. As always, politics are firmly in the band’s ire, however a bit like her 49 days in office, Liz Truss barely rates a mention, stuck to the fringes, or, indeed, somewhere in Canary Wharf amid the humming white Range Rovers.
The array of comedic vignettes that have featured throughout the band’s discography reach the summit on UK Grim. There’s So Trendy, featuring Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell as he recalls Jetpack man flying over LAX; the penultimate track, Tory Kong, which undoubtedly is set to become yet another live staple. “She never worked though, has she? She never fuckin’ need to. And she knows it/ Oh really? He does it all / Really?/ He does it all,” confesses Williamson in another side-splitting piece of dialogue that leads into the song: a dismantling of privilege, secluded islands and “Blowing smoke up the arse of Balenciaga at Paris Fashion Week”.
However, it’s DIwhy that takes the prize (“’Scuse me, mate. You’ve just dropped one of your tattoos”). In reference to the swathe of mediocre bands with hollow swagger and equally insufferable Mark E. Smith pastiche, not only do these acts continue to stand on the shoulders of the giant, but in doing so threaten to reduce the impact of the Sleaford Mods memorandum.
While Williamson rightfully takes no prisoners here (“You do playlists for Fred Perry, you boring cunt”), he also parts with the sort of honest self-assessment that 90 per cent of his peers should adopt. (“Oh yeah, not another white bloke aggro band /Oh yeah, we’re all the fucking same /Let’s not kid ourselves, man / Some win and some lose the fame game-ah.”)
Then there’s Force 10 from Navore. Featuring Dry Cleaning’s Florence Shaw, this is new-era Sleaford Mods. The gateway from the brash, shouty sermons of the past to the calculated and slightly more refined of the present, and it’s purely down to racking up the miles of life.
That’s not to say they don’t lean back into their past on occasion. With Fearn’s excellent, rumbling bass line, Tilldipper is quintessential Divide and Exit-era Sleaford Mods, as Williamson unloads the venom (“I want everything to be lifestyle/ Lifestyle, lifestyle, lifestyle”). It’s the fire and brimstone directed at the same people inside the John Peel tent at Glastonbury all those years ago, sniggering with the mean-spiritedness and contempt that continues to undo this country.
On The Ground and Right Wing Beast are of the same lineage, in the world of fake news and online warfare, and how it’s turning good people into powder kegs. And on Smash Each Other Up and Don, that powder keg explodes. Snapshots of post-lockdown Tory Britain, where the anxiety reaches the nerve endings. A furtive glance the wrong way or a word misconstrued, ultimately leading to chaos. And Sleaford Moments capture it, right outside Sainsbury’s car park.
While I Claudius is an examination of Williamson’s childhood (“I saw Santa Clause with a bag of chips?“) fittingly, Rhythms of Class caps it all off. Amid ’80s hip-hop satire, Williamson opens the curtains to a panoramic view of the United Kingdom circa 2023. The anger and isolation felt by so many. Even for those in fortunate positions to have a job and afford their gas bills, still, a lot of the time the only refuge to seek is in the small victories. Like a new Sleaford Mods record. At least we can be thankful for that and the sheer honesty of it. That doesn’t change with UK Grim, and where this band is concerned, it never will.
UK Grim is out now via Rough Trade. Purchase from Bandcamp.
2 replies on “Sleaford Mods: UK Grim”
Essential listening for us old gits that grew up with heavily politicised diatribes against the government of the day(yeah fuckin tories who else)actually reaching No1 in the charts..not that that means anything anymore…Kinda wish the Newtown Neurotics would reform and collaborate with the Mods…
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