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‘No one is safe from Williamson’s twisted outbursts of rage’: Sleaford Mods. Photographs © Simon Godley

The Duchess, York

March 5, 2015

Sleaford Mods website

Sleaford Mods are a complete misnomer. Neither man who comprises the band of that name comes from that particular Lincolnshire market town; now based in Nottingham, the duo of Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn hail from Grantham and Saxilby respectively.

And nor are they mods. If anything they are outsiders, several steps removed from both popular culture and the music industry.

Together they create the sound of what life is like for so many in the Britain of today. It is grim, repetitive, bleak, often degrading and inescapably austere.

Over Fearn’s incessant, clattering, sparse and brutal soundtrack of drum, bass and cheap keyboards, Williamson spits out his gnarled invective about modern living and the plight of a lost generation.

The world that Williamson visits is a human wasteland, the antithesis of every sunshine holiday brochure. It is one characterised by Jobseekers Allowance and dead end jobs, both characterised by the most mid-numbingly boring of daily routines.

It is one that that is full of faeces and features regular masturbation, recreational drug use born of necessity, old episodes of Tiswas and the occasional flights of escapism that these fleeting moments can bring.

And it is one where absolutely no one is safe from Williamson’s twisted outbursts of rage.

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Invective: Jason Williamson

Looking for all the world like two regular punters who had just come from the bar, the two men amble onto the Duchess stage and Fearn presses the play button on his laptop.

For the remainder of the show he proceeds to rocks back and forth on the spot, grinning inanely and only pausing to either take another slug from his bottle of Heineken or snap a photograph of the crowd on his mobile phone.

Williamson, on the other hand, is all coiled, twitching movement and barely suppressed fury as he paces back and forth from the microphone before unleashing yet another volley of stream-of-consciousness, an untrammelled, uncensored flurry of thoughts that is cut through with the most vile, stark and foul-mouthed of language.

Williamson is a contemporary James Joyce suffering with Tourette’s. His half-sung, half-spoken voice rests somewhere between that of Mark E Smith and Ian Dury, albeit one that is delivered in an east midlands accent.

In an incendiary performance that not once pauses for breath, we get a brand new song Live Tonight rubbing shoulders with older material such as the caustic McFlurry – Williamson’s withering take on the music business, where he conjoins the Brit Awards and ketamine use – and a raft of songs from last year’s excellent album Divide And Exit, including Middle Men, A Little Ditty, Tied Up In Nottz and the final encore and double-barrelled blast at the monarchy, The Corgi.

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A contemporary James Joyce
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Enjoy Sleaford Mods while we can

Now in their early 40s and after years of making the most negligible of marks in music, Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn have finally garnered much wider acclaim by expertly joining the dots between nihilism, social marginalisation and wry observations on human behaviour before stapling them all to the mundane soundtrack of many people’s lives.

Yet for all that this newly found success has not come easy, given their views on the plasticity and constant replication of modern show business you do sense that it is something Sleaford Mods do not want to fully embrace.

You also sense that given the relative constraints placed upon Sleaford Mods’ creative scope – their exciting, essential yet limited template can surely only be taken so far – this success is not one that is built to last. We should all do ourselves a huge favour then and enjoy it while we still can.