Man rides bicycle and almost gets ran over by a bus. Everyone thinks he’s a prick. An ex-footballer calls out the fascistic rhetoric of a wheezing government. He’s in the wrong. In the same month my £200 gas and electric bill comes through, the energy companies publish record profits. I stick on my big socks and shiver.
Yes, things are rather shite at the moment so it seems a perfect time for the sardonic sound of Sleaford Mods. The aptly named new album ‘UK GRIM’ holds a vicious mirror up to this country, one stained with spit and bile. It’s a dystopic record without much in its fourteen tracks that could be considered hopeful. But then, this is not a massively hopeful time. Frontman Jason Williamson is well known for his straight-down-the-line views across social media and he brings these to the fore on UK GRIM. On the eponymous opener he paints a dark vision of this sceptered isle, declaring: In England nobody can hear you scream, You’re just fucked, lads.
This is a sparse Sleaford Mods record, far from the maximalism of Spare Ribs. Andrew Fearn, keen to reflect the empty nature of Britain in 2023, has stripped away the tones and textures in favour of a harsh raw minimalism that drives the record, leaving Williamson’s words front and centre. On album standout ‘Pit 2 Pit’, the post-punk speed of Mods past is back, the quickfire lockdown-centred lyrics driving the sense of madness that so characterized their earlier work. Here, the musical blemishes are tonal, the scratch of a sound here, a moment of sharp stabbing there. Across UK GRIM, there’s a feeling of spontaneity, as though these songs came out quickly and without any second-guessing.
On ‘Force 10 From Navarone‘, the paranoia sets in, for it is not only the country that suffers but those within it too. The ‘box of isolation’ that Williamson sings of is a perfect distillation of UK GRIM as a whole. The sounds themselves, raw and vicious, are isolating. Song topics range from the cheap cocaine of pub toilets, fistfights, the Tories, petty criminals (Tilldippers), Liz Truss, the Right Wing machine and everything in between – all entirely isolating forces. The listener can’t help but feel dragged into this claustrophobia, all to the dark poetry that Williamson continues to craft so effortlessly.
UK GRIM is a perfect reflection of the state of the country today. The humour of previous Sleaford Mods records is still there, but it’s hard to find much funny at the moment and Williamson sounds genuinely frustrated with the state of it all. It’s a stripped back takedown of the status quo. It’s a coarse middle finger to all that is currently.
Sleaford Mods’ UK GRIM is out today – 10th March 2023 on Rough Trade
You can buy or stream the record here
Review by Alex Sarychkin: @inalexworld
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