Jon Rollinson reviews Sleaford Mods at the Empire, Coventry
In our post-truth political Britain, Sleaford Mods delivered a welcome dollop of authenticity in Coventry on Monday night, the sticky-floored Empire a perfect venue for this rapidly rising post-punk duo.
There’s no pretension at all here. They’re making the music they want to and if you like it too, well that’s a bonus. Singer Jason Williamson lopes around on stage in black t-shirt and joggers, barking lyrics and flicking his arm tic-like past his head. Musician Andrew Fearn creates the driving beats from his laptop, all the time bobbing and nodding and nursing a beer.
That DIY ethic draws a crowd of five hundred, made up of students, punks old and new and the kind of middle managers viciously targeted by Williamson in “Fizzy”.
It’s true, however, that the audience takes a while to get going. The set opens with a slower, more thoughtful number and only really takes off five songs later when Fearn triggers the opening bars of latest EP “Total Control Racing”.
Fearn’s backing tracks are the simplest of pounding dance rhythms, veering occasionally into wall-shaking dub, and totally effective in mobilising the crowd. The duo have been compared to The Fall and Devo but there’s also something of the Krautrock motorik about the relentlessness of the beat.
The singer makes for an engaging frontman, bantering amusingly with the Coventry crowd about his inability to dance on the carpeted stage. “I can’t do my usual shuffle. I’m making up a new dance for you tonight, Coventry. This is a totally unique performance you’re getting”.
Sleaford Mods are surfing the crest of a popular and critical wave at the moment. It will be interesting to see where they go next. How adaptable is their approach and do they even care? Brexit Britain will no doubt give the socially conscious Williamson plenty of new lyrical opportunity and tonight’s hint of a more open and reflective sound in the new numbers may open up fresh audiences. In the meantime, catch them while they’re riding high.