Release Date: Mar 3, 2017
Record label: Rough Trade
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Sleaford Mods were ahead of the curve when it came to reintroducing politics to music, and if English Tapas is anything to go by, they're also on the cutting edge of post-Brexit weariness. As on Key Markets, Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn serve up more character-driven songs that express their constant -- and always timely -- frustrations, whether they're skewering machismo on "Army Nights" or 21st century solipsism on songs like the attention-seeking "Snout" or "Just Like We Do," which calls out "pretentious little bastards on social medias." The duo's state of mind on English Tapas was foreshadowed not only on Key Markets but the T.C.R. EP, whose title track used a toy race car set as a nostalgic metaphor for spinning one's wheels.
"Bring back the neo-libs, I'm sorry/I didn't fuckin' mean to pray for anarchy!" apologizes Jason Williamson, sort of, on "Carlton Touts," a hot rant about working class Brits boozing in Brexit's shadow, where "the future is a flag pissed on and a kingsize bag of Quavers. " Sing-bark-rapping over post-punk groove loops, the Sleaford Mods are two forty-somethings who've watched their generation's disenfranchisement for awhile - see trackmeister Andrew Fearn's signature "STILL HATE THATCHER" T-shirt. They're basically a Sex Pistols for the new corporatocracy.
There are glimmers of musical progression on Sleaford Mods' ninth album: Jason Williamson sings the odd line, and there are even occasional choruses. But, pleasingly, for the most part it's business as usual, which means Williamson venting his anger at everything from neoliberalism to the NME website, atop Andrew Fearn's rudimentary beats. Given the social-chronicling nature of Williamson's rants, it's perhaps inevitable that Brexit looms large, whether explicitly on the standout Dull ("all the oldies vote for death"), or more obliquely, as on the bleak imagery of BHS.
Nottingham duo Sleaford Mods - beat generator Andrew Fearn and splenetic vocalist Jason Williamson - must be sick of being held up as a barometer for our fractious times. Fearn's gaunt, stick-figure rhythm beds and Williamson's aortic spurts of rage can certainly be interpreted as bleak indicators of an abyssal disillusionment; but Sleaford Mods deserve better than to be merely filed away as sweary adversarial totems simply because they have the grievous misfortune to be operating in this godforsaken time frame. (As Williamson told The Guardian: "We just roll along with the pain of it all.") As with anything arrestingly distinctive, their anti-elitist "English street music" is wide open to parody - but that's hardly the point.
I n theory at least, Sleaford Mods' moment should already have passed. Fairly or not, artists with a wilfully stark musical blueprint tend to be subject to diminishing returns pretty quickly, and few artists around at the moment have as stark a sound as Sleaford Mods. Virtually everyone must have the general idea by now. English Tapas, their ninth album, certainly tweaks the design here and there.
When you first hear Sleaford Mods, you might be a bit disoriented. The Nottingham duo’s electronic minimalist rap-ish rants are insulated against the uninvested listener. You need to seek it out and you must have a reason to dive into it. This self-isolation may be why it’s taken them so long to expand their fanbase.
English cuisine is hardly the horror show that it was in the 1970s--the British Isles are no longer a Michelin Star free zone--but the title of Sleaford Mods' new album still raises a smile of recognition. For ENGLiSH TAPAS, they've upsized from Nottingham imprint Harbinger Sound to one of the most storied independent labels in history, Rough Trade. But vocalist Jason Williamson and producer Andrew Fearn still keep their gaze fixed in the direction of the discount aisle, bards of a Great Britain that is not in fact great, but sloppy, shallow, self-important, and wholly lacking in taste.
Sing-shouter Jason Williamson and laptop button pusher/programmer Andrew Fearn, the two men behind electropunk duo Sleaford Mods, are back again with English Tapas, a fourth fry-up of scrambled slices of working-class life in England. This is their first full-length on Rough Trade and follows 2015's Key Markets, the album that brought them a wider audience and critical acclaim. In spite of all the accolades and the call up to the indie label big leagues, the attention hasn't changed them much.
While 'English Tapas' might literally refer to a menu item at "some random pub" visited by Sleaford Mods' button-presser Andrew Fearn, it's a fitting title for an album that's predominantly interested in dissecting and digesting various pockets of society. At their strongest when pointing out the ironies and idiocies of modern day England, they're a band who divide opinions while being unflinching in their own. Coming quickly off the back of last year's 'T.C.R' EP, 'English Tapas' builds on the more developed backing tracks that populated that record, providing the songs featured here with more musical depth, something which benefits frontman Jason Williamson's anarchic tirades to no end.
Sleaford Mods have made a name for themselves as the stripped-back sound of austerity Britain. Over minimal laptop beats courtesy of Andrew Fearn, lead agitator Jason Williamson has marked out his turf as part Mark E Smith of cult post-punkers The Fall and part foul-mouthed John Betjeman in the body of a This Is England extra. His words - and there are lots and lots of words - don't sugar-coat.
The lord Mark E Smith once uttered the phrase "Repetition. Repetition. Repetition". Since these precious words left the lips of Salford's greatest son many groups have adopted his philosophy with their musical output. None more strictly than Nottingham's very own Sleaford Mods. The down-and-out ….
Sleaford Mods, the Nottingham duo that sounds like the Fall but looks and functions like a hip hop MC/DJ collaboration, is back with another round of raucous chants and bitterly funny barks, riding bare, dirty, mechanized beats over drunken dystopias that are festooned with arresting poetry. (Though perhaps the kind of poetry that would beat you bloody if it heard you calling it that. ) English Tapas, named for an actual, probably inedible bar menu item, is harder and sharper than 2015's chart-topping Key Markets, right in line with the brutal humor of Divide and Exit from 2014.
Sleaford Mods – English Tapas For those expecting this latest and hotly-anticipated Sleaford Mods long-player to angrily amplify and directly document the turmoil of Brexit-fevered Britain will be somewhat disappointed. However, although Sleaford Mods have always been close to the pulse of latter-day socio-political churning, Jason Williamson (vocals) and Andrew Fearn (music) have not fallen into the trap of being a straightforward agitprop act. For all of the duo's brutal minimalism there is an adroit grasp of the dizzying surrealism and abject confusion that can drive modern life, which goes far beyond reacting to the soon-to-be-dated minutiae of invoking Article 50 or the latest Daily Mail front-pages.