Sleaford Mods @ Rock City, Nottingham, UK, 14th March, 2023 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, May 29th, 2023  

Sleaford Mods

Sleaford Mods @ Rock City, Nottingham, UK, 14th March, 2023,

Mar 22, 2023 Photography by Jimi Arundell Web Exclusive
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First night of the UK Grim tour, and Sleaford Mods are kicking it off with a ferocious set at Rock City. It’s only a short walk to the Chameleon, JT Soar, and all those other tiny Nottingham venues where Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn developed their odd hybrid of sprechgesang, lo-fi hip hop and DIY electronica before becoming Britain’s biggest cult band. But they’ve both come a long way before tonight’s hometown gig, with the past ten years or so seeing them team up with the likes of Leftfield, Viagra Boys and The Prodigy, appearing on Jools Holland and picking up such celebrity fans as Stewart Lee, Frankie Boyle and even Iggy Pop. It’s no surprise that they’re the favourite choice of both acerbic comedians and the prince of punk because the duo’s deadly combination of bitterly hilarious observational lyrics and basic beats has seen them grow from local heroes to genuine phenomenon. Each new album creeps higher up the charts, and the latest LP came threateningly close to the No. 1 spot.

Selecting Soul Buggin’ as the warmup act is a stroke of genius. DJ Steve Wrighty’s selection of house and dance bangers creates a club atmosphere, and Rock City feels far more like an old school dirty rave than a gig. Exactly the sort of sweaty, pilled up nights that spawned the Mods and there’s more than just a few jaws swinging before the main acts arrives onstage. You can tell it’s something of an anathema to many of the boozed up aggro skinhead fans that latched onto them around the Divide and Exit era. But to those of us that live locally and have proudly watched the pair rise through the ranks plus a huge wave of kids that grown up listening to them; it’s the perfect way to start the night.

The mish mash mosh pit explodes with the arrival of Jason and Fearny. Armed as always with just a laptop and a microphone, they immediately launch into a barrage of new tracks including “UK Grim”, “On The Ground” and “Pit 2 Pit” soliciting bellows of excitement from hipsters and hooligans alike. But it’s the old firm favourites that really get the crowd going, with excited skanking to “McFlurry” whilst “Giddy on the Ciggies” prompts a chant of “You Tory cunts” from the crowd, much to Williamsons’ amusement responding with “Fucking savages the lot of you!”

Of course, the big singles go down well. “Mork n Mindy” (sadly no appearance from Billy Nomates, all her vocals are sampled) has everyone “singing” along and “T.C.R.” even prompts a sort of circle pit. But we’re here for the unsanitized working class rage and it doesn’t get better than “Fizzy”, the bitter anecdote of a bastard manager abusing what little petty power they have to indulge his “taste for young girls”. The night peaks with “Tied Up In Nottz” (of course), their big breakthrough track summarising the shit show of the Midlands grind followed by my favourite “Jobseeker” which doesn’t pretend to be some heartfelt Ken Loach red flag anthem, but a warts and all account of desperately getting through the minefield anyway you can, be it cider, drugs or wanking. Because issues of responsibility are the preoccupation of the timid middle class, pretending to be leaders of a good fight they were never in.

And it’s this unrelenting barrage of basic beats, barely coherent rants and painfully on the nose observations that reminds us exactly what makes the Mods so special. Never diluted by hand wringing inclusivity, sullied by easy popularism, or watered down with worries of being respectable. It’s why when they leave the stage, we’re all still screaming till we’re treated to an encore of two of their best; “Kebab Spider” and “Tweet Tweet Tweet”.

Put on paper, Sleaford Mods should have never worked. The slightly off rhymes about Nottingham street life. Their purposefully naff take on drill and grime. The strained singing. Somehow all a bit of a rip off, yet so utterly authentic. Far from spring chickens when they first started, they could have easily been just another underground obscurity and become that band that people stroke their chins to whenever they were played on 6music. But it’s that honest aggression, that genuine anger holding BREXIT Britain to account and true passion in each performance that keeps the lost COVID generation baying for more. You can’t fake that fury. You can’t buy that energy. This is the pissed off political punk poetry we need, which only they can deliver. They’ve already come a long way to headline their home city, and tonight they’ve proved they’re going to keep going much further still.


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