Bunch of Kunst
For those who don’t speak German, Bunch of Kunst (meaning art) will likely be pronounced like the title of one of Sleaford Mods’ more obscene songs. What a fun play on words. German music journalist Christine Franz directed, wrote and produced this documentary about Nottingham electro-punk band Sleaford Mods. She follows lyricist Jason Williamson, composer Andrew Fearn and manager Steve Underwood while they tour Europe and the UK in 2015 and 2016.
Geoff Barrow from Portishead describes the simple appeal of their music. He says: “Two guys on stage, and it’s pure. You can’t f*ck with it”. It’s their unabashed response to brutal working-class struggles that draws their fans in. Jason, Andrew and Steve are in it for the music, otherwise they could have sold out and sugar-coated their cuss-filled lyrics to make them radio-friendly.
A 54-year-old woman exclaims that Sleaford Mods’ gig was the best she’s seen since the Sex Pistols in 1977. Their minimalistic performance style, with Andrew almost looking like a fan swaying back and forth holding a beer and Jason jumping and twitching while screaming his lyrics, might not sound all that impressive. It doesn’t hurt that Williamson’s onstage energy is electric and contagious.
One German follower states that it doesn’t even matter that he can’t understand the words. This statement is echoed later in the film when Iggy Pop explains that because of Jason’s accent and quick delivery he can’t understand him. He’s still their number one fan; the punk legend is intercut with the duo watching his interview on a laptop, which shows them starstruck at Iggy speaking so highly of them.
One sequence of shifting black and white split screens documents their UK 2015 tour. The editing shows Jason singing “Silly Me” in two frames, one in a studio and another on stage, which is a cool visual affect. Daniel Waldhecker’s cinematography keeps the film feeling authentic and gritty, like Sleaford Mods themselves. The lighting is minimal in many scenes and is never too abrasive. At Franz’s request, Jason records himself on the morning of the top albums list, changing to a cell phone aspect ratio, a fun and interesting idea.
Manager Steve Underwood, owner of Harbinger Sound label, helped Sleaford Mods produce three albums in as many years all on their own – they get things done on their terms. It is surprising to see the enormous success of the duo over the two years shown. At the start, it seems like an underdog, gritty music documentary that highlights the talents of underappreciated musicians, but the anger and frustration that Williamson eloquently infuses into his lyrics mixed with Andrew Fearn’s hypnotic beats really help to launch them into the spotlight.
The film is a punch to the gut and it’s a shame that Bunch of Kunst received an 18+ rating due to all the curse words. Let’s hope that this doesn’t stop any of the devoted fans from watching this glorious ode to music.
Bunch of Kunst is released nationwide on 21st April, 2017.
Watch the trailer for Bunch of Kunst here: