As consistently excellent as they’ve always been, it’s sort of bleak that Sleaford Mods still sound as relevant as they do. For well over a decade, Andrew Fearn’s gaunt beats and Jason Williamson’s unrelenting invective have provided a uniquely incisive soundtrack to societal rot, staying defiantly true to form as trends have ebbed and flowed around them. Perhaps key to the staying power of their music is that it isn’t just an expression of Brexit-era antagonism; this is the sound of decades of receding horizons, the bottom having fallen out of Britain long ago, never to be replaced. For so many people, the UK has been grim for fucking ages – and it’s not getting better in a hurry. While that’s still the case, Sleaford Mods’ music will continue to resonate.
UK GRIM is no great stylistic leap forward for Sleaford Mods, but it doesn’t need to be. And that’s not to say it’s totally without invention: keen-eared listeners will note its relative sparseness when compared to previous album Spare Ribs, the instrumentals even hollower than usual, Williamson’s bars as desolate as they’ve ever been. The title track lurches along on top of a Fearn instrumental of doom-metal weight, while tracks like ‘Don’ and ‘Smash Each Other Up’ evoke the empty-eyed mournfulness of London drill in their long-shadowed murk. Throughout it all, Williamson’s lyrics are characteristically seething and blackly funny, delivering bruised vignettes of a completely knackered nation of shit towns, shit housing, shit bands and a murderously shit ruling class.
Nihilism and score-settling won’t solve much, but Sleaford Mods are still capable of skewering contemporary decay with a peculiar efficiency; for that alone, theirs remains an essential voice.
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