Sleaford Mods // Live Review

The Lexington – July 18th

Sleaford Mods

Since the days of Magna Carta and The Peasants’ Revolt, we Brits have had a thing for a bit of rebellion. We rebelled against dickhead aristocracy and landowners then, and between the 70’s and 90’s our great counter-cultures of punk and rave rebelled against Tories (who are basically dickhead aristocracy and landowners anyway). When the chips are down, we take stock of what’s causing our social anxiety and invariably the blame lies firmly with the establishment.

It’s no surprise, then, in a climate where job prospects are still pretty shocking and landlords hold us ransom over rent prices, that a few politically charged underground artists are coming to the fore. We’ve got Eagulls, who talk about young life at the bottom of the social ladder, and then there’s Sleaford Mods, who talk about middle-aged life at the bottom of the social ladder.

The latter, consisting on Andrew Fearn and Jason Williamson, are headlining The Lexington in Islington. Expecting the crowd to be made up of current and ex-hardcore scene members and obligatory music nerds in their 20’s, I’m surprised to find the majority are seemingly ‘normal’ (and by that I mean: aesthetically non-music-tribe affiliated) men and women in their 30’s and 40’s, and there’s a buzz of anticipation. Support act The Lowest Form come and go to polite applause but they lack engagement – while the support and headline acts do share a stylistic anger and subversive nature, The Lowest Form sound primal, thrashing like a wild beast against the world which has held it captive. Their performance is like looking on with pity at the victims of society’s ills. Sleaford Mods instead channel that rage into a cutting dissection of society that’s stitched together with wit and crudeness – the crowd are waiting for the demagoguery of Williamson with the same anticipation that precedes an important political rally.

Fearn stands behind his laptop with a beer, his only involvement in the performance to start and stop the Spartan backing-track for each song. His brazen acceptance of the ‘press play guy’ role is refreshing; a stark contrast to the ubiquitous laptop DJ who will try oh so fucking hard to convince you they’re working their nuts off, but we really know they’re only clicking a few buttons to select the next track and auto-sync it.

The show, really, revolves around Ricky Lambert-lookalike Williamson, who without the microphone and backing track would just be a bloke having a long, hilarious rant. He’s full of the rage I’d always assumed was puked up the morning after your 30th birthday along with the obligatory drunken lamb donner, the rage that I’d wrongly assumed was the preserve of angst-ridden youth.

It’s hard to review the performance in a typical sense, but what I can say is that it somehow felt important. This wasn’t about enjoying songcraft and sound, this was about a solidarity within the pissed-off proletariat that transcends trends and generations. I’m sick of social media constantly telling me how much fun my friends are having and mainstream music telling me to be positive (that’s you, Parrell and The Lego Movie Soundtrack, you pricks). I may be a grumpy bastard, but looking around The Lexington I’m reassured in the knowledge that I’m not alone. In complete contrast to the vacuous popular sounds of today, Sleaford Mods’ brand of rugged anti-music is absolutely essential.

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Live: 100 Club – October 23rd