Photo Credit: Alasdair McLellan
The Sleaford Mods made up of lyricist and singer Jason Williamson and DJ Andrew Fearn was formed in Nottingham, England in 2007. Since that time, the Mods have put out 11 studio albums, 4 EP’s, 4 compilations, one live album, and two lyric collections. Andrew Fearn makes beats and tracks so dense and complicated you’d need an electrician’s schematics to tease it all out: mixing soul songs, punk rock breakdowns, film clips, and traffic noise into rhythms that are cinematic and heavy. Or light. Or whatever they need to be. Jason Williamson is a genius. He barks like the Oi! poet laureate Garry Johnson and he mumbles like Mark E. Smith, and he is evidently angry all the time.
Spare Ribs, their latest album, came out in January of 2021. It’s not even good but I can’t stop listening to it. So one might well ask, why do I keep listening to it if it’s not even good? I listen because even at their worst the Sleaford Mods are incredibly great. Spare Ribs gives us the Sleaford Mods take on life in England, post-Brexit but mid-plague. And you feel the claustrophobia and helplessness of lockdown and the rage for leaders who lead ineffectually or with selfish intentions. You can smell the cheap lager and see the nicotine-stained fingers waving down buses, no mistake but it is just…how do I put it? Not good, at least for them.
Although, don’t get it twisted, there are some bangers. “Mork and Mindy”, with the brilliant Billy Nomates is a slick neck cracker. “Thick Ear” is dope with its call-back to the song “Jolly F*cker” off of their 2014 album Chubbed Up, the song deftly dressing down some chump for something or other. My favorite track “I Don’t Rate You” is nasty, a syncopated takedown of posers, and the false glory of fame. However, for every jam, there is a flop. “Elocution” for example is another meditation on class that would typically be welcomed, but it just doesn’t have the spirit. The worst of all is the closer, “Fishcakes.” It sounds like a cheap 1980’s era Casio Sk-1 synth. Take a minute, go check it out right now. It’s not good.
All and all, Spare Ribs could be considered the Sleaford Mods’ worst outing. Not because it is repetitive, though it is. Not because it is predictable, though it is, or because it’s lifeless. Though it is kind of that too. But because this is all in comparison to the Mods’ only real competition in my eyes, which is the Mods themselves and the work they have created up until this point. The Mods offer a genuine voice in a time when anything genuine is hard to come by and the reality they discuss is a reality shared by a good portion of the world. They are extremely impressive, and so is this album, in many ways. It just isn’t up to standard.