Sleaford Mods – English Tapas

Sleaford Mods – English Tapas

For those expecting this latest and hotly-anticipated Sleaford Mods long-player to angrily amplify and directly document the turmoil of Brexit-fevered Britain will be somewhat disappointed.  However, although Sleaford Mods have always been close to the pulse of latter-day socio-political churning, Jason Williamson (vocals) and Andrew Fearn (music) have not fallen into the trap of being a straightforward agitprop act.  For all of the duo’s brutal minimalism there is an adroit grasp of the dizzying surrealism and abject confusion that can drive modern life, which goes far beyond reacting to the soon-to-be-dated minutiae of invoking Article 50 or the latest Daily Mail front-pages.

This isn’t to say that English Tapas doesn’t lob-in a few choice observational political broadsides, wrapped in trademark bleak Sleaford Mods wit.  Certainly, the raw invective-spewing “Carlton Touts” hits out with some barbed bipartisan jabs (“The Labour Party is a three-quid tube of vending machine smarties” and “The angel of the Midlands has flown away/Probably south/You can’t blame her/When the future is a flag pissed on/And a king-sized bag of Quavers”), as does “Snout” (“Like scared kids ’cause that’s all you are/Rubbing up to the crown and the flag and the notion of who we are”) and lead single “B.H.S.” (“I lay and hope for the knuckle-dragging exodus/We’re going down like B.H.S.”).  Yet, the arguably stronger songs across the album take more lateral approaches.

Coupled with the increasing musicality that comfortably crept into last year’s T.C.R. EP as well as Williamson’s tentative forays into actual singing, English Tapas opens-up more of his heart and guts in its more transferable moments.  Hence, “Army Nights” offers an amusing account of middle-aged male gym culture; the anthemic Ian Dury-like “Just Like We Do” bites back at British cynicism in the face of success; both “Messy Anywhere” and “Drayton Manored” provide graphic tales of hedonism gone awry; and the brilliantly desperate “Dull” glues an engrossing all-encompassing punkish-rap to the LP’s most nimble sampled bass and beats.  Perhaps the most startling moment in terms of stylistic progression is the closing “I Feel So Wrong”; wherein Williamson’s raw tones morph into a warm almost-croon, over a Krautrock-like framing from Fearn, to deliver a perceptive expression of depression and disorientation that could fit with the troubled times of the 1970s and 1980s as much as they do the 2000s and 2010s.

Densely-packed and multi-layered as it is, pre-existing fans and late-comers alike will have to work a little harder than before to find the hooks and insight within English Tapas.  With the absence of anything quite as moreish as say “Tweet Tweet Tweet” or “No One’s Bothered” it may go for less instant satisfaction but it’s undoubtedly still worth tucking into as part of the steady Sleaford Mods diet.

Rough Trade Records