Growing up in London in the 70/80s I was lucky enough to have been witness to some great musical movements. I was just a little too young for punk, but I caught its tail-end and was excited by its attitude. Then came along ‘Oi’, with its anger and power, with a voice for (and from) the working classes. It’s just a pity that some of those voices were complete cunts with racist views and fascist ideas. I believe ‘Oi’ could have been a perfect accompaniment for the 2Tone movement if it could have just adopted their ideas. There is a place for anger in music: its energy, if used correctly, can have an enormous effect. I also believe there is something powerful and efficacious about the minimalist musician that gives their message more gravitas. If U2 and Billy Bragg were to speak out on the same issue, Bono would be the first one to be told to fuck off before he even finishes, but there are many other reasons for this.
For a few years now, Sleaford Mods have been the ‘in band’, the band the ‘cool kids’ are into, and I’m sure they hated that tag. But with every release they have proven over and over again that they are not the type of band to be pandering to the latest craze, or to anything for that matter. The reasons that their messages haven’t changed much are because the landscape they write about doesn’t seem to be changing much at all, if anything it’s getting worse. But from great adversity comes great art, and as much as some may try to dumb down the stylings of Sleaford Mods, with English Tapas they have produced an album of exceptional quality. It’s exactly what’s needed right now: a shot of reality that will make you feel uncomfortable if you don’t understand it. But for those that do it’s a sigh of relief that a least someone is standing there sticking two fingers up to the establishment and life in general with a huge FUCK YOU! That may be undignified to some, but for many it’s exactly how they feel right now. And who says art has to be dignified? The definition of dignified is ‘Having or showing a composed or serious manner that is worthy of respect’… and this album is more than worthy of respect.
Kicking off with ‘Army Nights’, you get a real sense of that ‘Oi’ feel, with its raw bass line, machine gun delivery, a concomitant catchy chorus and great humour. But it’s not all blood and fire: musically, ‘Messy Anywhere’ isn’t a million miles away from Kraftwerk and ‘Cuddly’ has a great dub underbelly to it. Jason Williamson’s delivery is always a visceral, but composed, flow of conscientious humour-tinted anger throughout the diverse styles, while Andrew Fearn’s belligerent beats groove in and out of contrasting rhythmical variations of the same theme, and that is to prove a relevant soundtrack to the commentary of the world inhabited by Sleaford Mods.
I can’t think of a more relevant album for today than English Tapas. It should be played in schools to teach today’s generation that there’s more to music and poetry than the same old sex drugs and rock n roll we unwittingly consume over and over again. As Monty Python once said “I like a nice tune, you’re forced to”, and who doesn’t? But Aristotle also said “Music directly imitates the passions or states of the soul. When one listens to music that imitates a certain passion, he becomes imbued with the same passion; and if over a long time he habitually listens to music that rouses ignoble passions, his whole character will be shaped to an ignoble form.” People are fed up with the same old shit, and right now no one is sounding quite like Sleaford Mods.