It’s hard not to fall in love with the intensity of Sleaford Mods. The spoken word duo is, if nothing else, a band willing to show the ugliest side of our society and for that, they should be given their dues. But while they swing at other bands for not being as ‘real’ as them is there something unattainable about their output?
Their new LP Eton Alive is another socio-political laugh at the world’s crumbling walls. Jason Williamson, the mouthpiece of the outfit in front of Andrew Fearn’s minimalist beats, offers up on album five a single noise to epitomise the LP: a belch. The first sound on the album is a guttural human compulsion, caught and compounded in song and delivered as art with a wry smile.
Often labelled as simply a political band Sleaford Mods like to find the fight in everything they do. Whether it’s taking shots at other bands like Idles and Fat White Family or pointing the finger towards the elite, the band always want blood on their knuckles. But Eton Alive is bringing back the toothless smiles to go along with it. They offer a little joke, subtle humour and national nuances on almost every track.
Whether it’s Graham Coxon (whom they describe as “a left-wing Boris Johnson”) or the NME (fucking lol) the band are full of jokes and idiosyncratic giggles. Williamson’s jokes and socially wry quips are wonderfully backed by some of Fearn’s best work behind the desk. The bass-heavy grooves show a sophistication that we’ve not seen from him before.
But as much as we all love a joke, a message and an ethos, the main loss here is that there’s not a song on the album which you’d play in any other scenario but loudly on your headphones. We kept asking ourselves, “where are the tunes!?”
So while this brief look into the mirror of society, as held up by Sleaford Mods, provides a pus and blood-spattered view of a ludicrous world, sharing the sadness and silliness of our country in equal measure, it does so without a memorable note. It gives us instead a dirge of confrontation, shouted opinions and funny words atop some heaving beats.
Sleaford Mods are becoming the band you put on your favourites list to show people that you’re arty, edgy and not-mainstream.
If you’re a Sleaford Mods fan, like we are, Eton Alive will hit all the right notes for you in principle. It’s ugly, it’s a laugh and it’s almost entirely unattainable to anyone outside of a particular sub-sect of music lover. If you’re not a fan already you may struggle to see the value.
While the lack of a lead single or tangible sound will likely please the band, their aim always being to make their own art and “fuck the rest of ya”, what it does highlight is that the band are now more an art-piece than ever before.