Did you hear what Iggy Pop said about Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn, the duo better-known as Sleaford Mods? He said that they were “undoubtedly, absolutely, definitely the world’s greatest rock n roll band.” What does that even mean – and how seriously do we take Iggy Pop, anyway?
Iggy Pop, we do take seriously. The man is his own chemical symbol. He’s made almost entirely of the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll – that unusual metaphysical element that was (arguably) born in the USA and that once represented rebellion, counterculture, and the elevation of teenage kicks into an art-form. Back in the day he was a forerunner – stretching every sinew into performance, and burning every knuckle with his grip against complacency in creation. He lived at volume, and he was an innovator. His testosterone-fueled rock sprayed its DNA all over following generations of alternative musicians. Iggy Pop could retire from music, open a florist shop in Bumfuck, Idaho, never again run a redlight, dress in slacks and politely say ‘amen’ every Sunday – and he’d still be more rock ‘n’ roll than 97% of artists sticking cigarettes into the headstocks of their guitars and snarling at the sound guy who can’t make them sound any more edgy than they actually are.
When we’re trying to talk about Sleaford Mods, why are we still banging on about Iggy Pop? Well… Iggy Pop was a revolution in music. He was counterculture in the sense he deployed a broad, scatter gun approach to defiance. He rarely pointed at one item of the mundane, the mediocre or the established methods… he simply fucking rioted. He railed against it all – he didn’t simply define a position of opposition. He was the opposition. In three chords or less Iggy Pop would scrawl an anthem in sonic graffiti and start the good war. When a man like Iggy Pop says stuff about Sleaford Mods being ‘rock n’ roll’ he means a very particular kind of thing. He means ‘What I failed to burn, these boys will torch.’
What Sleaford Mods do, and what’s displayed here on “Moptop”, taken from their latest album, ENGLiSH TAPAS is this; Fearn gathers beats – bare boned, no bullshit, beats – and then he drowns them in the kind of unnatural grit that comes from concrete, not the beach. Once the beat is raw, minimal and moved to the point of breaking, Williamson enters, puts down lyrical work that brings a highly scrutinized element of modern living, he strips the skin off, and then he fucks with it.
What Sleaford Mods accomplish is an oversimplification of the composite parts of a situation – so what’s left is elemental, and suddenly the metaphysical spirit of punk, nihilism, or rock ‘n’ roll (if you like) is made flesh. So, ‘yes – everything is fucked’ becomes a kind of mantra that brings a sense of relief. It’s a bit like the Blues, if you think about it. “This hurts, let’s sing out the hurt”
If you check out the video for “Moptop” you’ll see some of the classic no-bullshit, no dressing, visual signature of the duo. Here we are in their mates kitchen – they’re doing their thing. It’s captivating simply because so little is happening, and yet everything is being given. It’s a good video. But listen to that bass-line. You can hear that “I Wanna Be Your Dog’” mashup waiting to happen. There’s the sonic relationship with that good old fashioned spirit of rock ‘n’ roll that Mr Pop referenced.
Fearn is wearing a “Still Hate Thatcher” t-shirt – because the former British Prime Minister’s corrosive legacy is still felt. Thatcher – the anti-everything-humane – continues to define the mentality that we see in the fucktards standing on the shoulders of her worldview – namely that strangers should be mistrusted and that the best indicator of success if having two cars in your driveway. (she really said that shit about everyone needing to own two cars)
Sleaford Mods, in being objective can sometimes become willfully objectionable. They polarize, not just those who like their music and those that do not. They divide those that share their worldview and those who think it should be delivered in a less caustic fashion. But this isn’t all nihilism and inescapable dread. Yes – Sleaford Mods break things down; they dismantle beats, they dislocate lyricism to present a rant – but they do so in order to create, to show cracks through which light can shine. And that’s pretty fucking rock ‘n’ roll.
For the “Moptop” video and their excellent ENGLiSH TAPAS album We award Sleaford Mods 19.5 out of 23.2 kicks against the pricks.
HURRY – LISTEN – SLEAFORD MODS
image credit: roger sargent