Sleaford Mods – Spare Ribs
To their devotees, Sleaford Mods have always been a rare voice in rock. The Midlands-based punks’ social commentary – delivered by frontman Jason Williamson over musical partner Andrew Fearn’s beats and basslines – possesses an uncompromising authenticity lacking in a world where music is full of middle-class arrivistes.
The group’s new album Spare Ribs arrives at a time that’s been bleak for everyone. However, this period has been especially dispiriting for the duo. Famed as staunch working-class critics of Tory governments, they saw the man they backed to oppose the political party, Jeremy Corbyn, crushed during last year’s election.
Considering this context, there’s less raw rage on this record and more despair. Williamson describes his frustration on the introductory track A New Brick as “Tory tired”. The frontman’s feelings are also reflected in the song Short Cummings – referring to the Barnard Castle-bound government adviser, Dominic Cummings. The tune is full of lyrics slamming the tendency of the privileged to fail upwards.
Despite the Sleaford Mods’ reputation as brave, truth-telling social commentators, the album’s political tirades – like Out There – are its weakest elements. The pieces are more swear-laden, personal catharsis rather than profound insights into the sorry state of Britain. The title track’s name refers to the expendability of those lost to Covid-19 and laments feeling helpless about the situation, but its targets like Elon Musk are easy ones.
There’s also tension regarding Williamson’s wit. While it may be lauded because it’s a window into the disconnection of the masses – it could also be said that it resonates with the very class tourists he attacks on songs like Nudge It more than it does in the real world he both celebrates and decries.
When the pair attacks industry hypocrisy or draws on nostalgia for a simpler time, they provide stronger moments. Nudge It broadens the group’s tried-and-tested sonic palette with a piano line, grime beat and vocals from Amy Taylor of Amyl and the Sniffers. Its barbs for unnamed contemporaries land hard. Another standout is Mork n Mindy, which again features an outsider in the British music scene, singer Billy Nomates, as well as a trance-inducing beat and recollections of an idealised but less than perfect childhood. Most daring and entertaining, however, is Elocution. The tune opens with a well-spoken mockery of musicians’ insincere praise for independent venues, and doesn’t let up from there.
Overall, Spare Ribs is a slightly hit-and-miss affair – though one that cuts through best when Williamson aims close to home and Fearn gets inventive.
Spare Ribs is released on 15th January 2021. For further information or to order the album visit Sleaford Mods’ website here.
Watch the video for Mork n Mindy here: