Sleaford Mods Eton Alive Extreme Eating Records
Sleaford Mods’ snarling machine-punk has provided an angry, working class critique of the grim political injustices of Austerity Britain. In a more scattershot way, it takes aim at the preening and posturing of Britain’s privileged elite. Tied Up in Notts, the withering hometown anti-anthem on their eerily-titled breakthrough album Divide & Exit set the tone. The template has been in place ever since: punchy drums and ragged bass from Andrew Fearn’s programming, and rattlesnake vocals from wordsmith Jason Williamson.
Eton Alive drops just as the polarisation and resentment of Brexit has really begun to bite, reflected in what feels like an increasingly recriminatory lyrical focus. There’s a shade more melody (the brilliantly hypnotic When You Come Up to Me) and the production is sharper (the restless punk-funk of Discourse, or the synth line fade of Top it Up). But the band’s take is that the middle class commentariat has seemingly moved on from them, while other acts commodify their righteous dissent. Sleaford Mods sound angrier than ever.
In a recent tweet, the band said: “Being working class isn’t cool anymore is it. We got away with it whilst austerity was sinking its teeth in and people wanted shit kickers to entertain them…” For Sleaford Mods, the music industry is swarming with privilege which replicates itself endlessly.
The Blur reference (“Graham Coxon looks like a leftwing Boris Johnson”) on Flipside makes sense in this context: this was a band that in their art-school-does-cockney shtick arguably monetised cultural appropriation, and there’s been plenty more like them since. With political ultra-elites routinely claiming to be the anti-establishment ‘voice of the people’, Sleaford Mods’ indignation at well-to-do young men adopting the aesthetics of the working class for commercial gain feels as relevant now as it was in Blur’s heyday.
In keeping with the political mood of the moment, Sleaford Mods’ revenge algorithm has gone slightly haywire. The almost- indecipherable lines in Big Burt take aim at the music press (“You music magazines/ Lying to us, just to stay in print”) alongside misplaced demonic children’s TV references. But beneath what feels like an increasingly chaotic veneer, Sleaford Mods have retained the vitality and venom of their earlier work. A menacing, lo-fi endeavour that perhaps isn’t at the top of its game, but stings all the same.