There are many words that could be used to describe the Sleaford Mods. Subtlety isn’t one of them.
They returned to Edinburgh in front of a packed audience at Liquid Room in the heart of the Old Town. There was a mixed age range in attendance; everyone from mid-50s to mid-teens were jumping and head-banging to singer Jason Williamson’s anarchic vocals. He introduced himself on stage, casually swatting away the adoring cheering of fans; he knew he was good so he didn’t need the confirmation. After circling the microphone, dancing with bent head and elbows out – reminiscent of a chicken – he delved head first into a mind numbing, almost existential, performance. The faster he sang, the more his chest, arms and shoulders jerked outwards, as if he was possessed by some spirit of boogie.
Williamson’s vocals bordered on a sermon; with every word a trail of spit coated the front row of entranced onlookers, his every word enunciated and verbally blown out from his throat. His bandmate on the backing tracks, Andrew Fearn, with beer in hand and dressed in lounge pants and baggy t-shirt, bopped his way along to Jason’s every word through the entire set, hardly ever glancing at his laptop to check the sound mixing and levels were correct. He was dressed as if he either had just got out of bed, or was just about to go into it as soon as they had finished.
The Sleaford Mods pair were born and raised in Nottingham. Joining forces in 2010, Jason and Andrew’s first recorded collaboration was on the CDr release Wank, which appeared in 2012. The band’s uniqueness lies in their minimalism, as audience member Richard, from Edinburgh, told me: “The first thing I noticed about them was the beat. It’s stripped down… almost a pure sound.” And, after getting used to the endless tirade of expletives and the shockingly aggressive stances of every song, I must admit I was captivated by how this singer was able to preach to music.
The venue added another layer to proceedings; the blue neon lighting of the intimate space combined with the 80s-sounding keyboard synthesizers gave the atmosphere a distinctly dystopian feel. The area was like a spaceport from the likes of Star Trek, and Jason the Cockney wizard abusing the very idea of melody, and breaking through the constraints of such a term, to find a fourth dimension of communication between music and audience. From the battering humour of ‘Army Nights’, an affectionate toast to the banter of gym culture, to ‘Drayton Manored’, a journey into the various stages of an all-night bender where “a trip to Spar is like a trip to Mars”, witty earthy commentary emphasises the band’s status as a voice for the working class.
Charlie, from Livingston, tried to prepare me for what I was about to witness before the gig began: “It’s nothing like anything I’ve ever heard before,” adding: “You’re in for a treat.” Well, I’m not sure if treat is the right word. I will say that it was an experience that I’m sure most people would not really truly describe as a treat; the performance is too intense for such a light, airy statement.
Rather, going to see the Sleaford Mods is an experience that wakes you up, and keeps you entranced. And the memory of those violent and gorgeously wicked sounds stays with you long after the lights go up.
IMAGE: Paul Hudson, Flickr / @pahudson on Twitter