Monday, 21 July 2014

Sleaford Mods - The Angry Young Man becomes an angry old man

There was a time in my teens when I was seeing bands just as they were becoming the next big thing. Pride of place goes to seeing The Smiths play to a couple of hundred people at North East London Poly. Now, I hear about bands two years after they have appeared through interviews in The Guardian. Such is life.

It was though this route that I came across Sleaford Mods, a thoroughly awkward pair dishing out angry rants about austerity Britain. Their breakthrough track (if it can be called that) is a first person tsunami of bitterness called Job Seeker. Chin jutting, hollow braggadocio of a man losing the plot in a job centre, his self hatred and rage against the world competing in a foul mouthed tirade. One can hear The Fall, The Streets and Plan B in there, but somehow different. Less abstract than The Fall, grimmer than The Streets yes. But while Plan B may have occupied similar lyrical territory Sleaford Mods are not ranting for the 16 year old on the fringes of gang culture. They are about the broken man in his 30's 40's men (and it is very male) who have tried and failed. Their failure is their own.

Reading that both members were in their 40's made sense and also struck me as interesting. They are not grown ups pretending to be down with the kids, they are writing angry music about who they are. They are not social commentators from the outside, they place themselves, like Morrissey and Lou Reed did at their best on the inside of the world they want to depict. When I was in my teens the idea that a band with members in their 40's could be writing angry music about their lives, and it to have any resonance would have seemed ridiculous. But it is still us baby boomers driving the music industry. Our tastes dominate. I would rather two guys in there 40's had a crack at saying something about the world than the legions of young bands who seem to make old music.

Whether the Sleaford Mods have any longevity will depend on two things. Firstly can they still say vital interesting things now that they are critically lorded musicians rather than frustrated wannabes. And secondly can they evolve their musical template. Plan B found huge commercial success breaking out of the Grime Ghetto. He could do this partly because he was armed with remarkable singing voice, and clearly vast ambition. Whether Williamson of SM's can do the same is to be seen. But even if they don't they have made an indecent mark.