Music Reviews

English Tapas Review: “We need a voice like Sleaford Mods in today’s society”

You’ve seen it on the backs of buses; the brash talking bass thumping Nottingham bred duo Sleaford Mods have returned with album number four – English Tapas, and they’ve only gone and teamed up with Rough Trade to produce it!

If I’m being honest, I stuck the album on and tried writing whilst in Hallward after my 9am seminar and a medium Americano (the Venti machine isn’t working today). 37 minutes later the album had finished and all I had to show for it was masses of swear words, a headache from bopping and the guilt of turning heads on the top floor of the library with my occasional bursts of laughter; sorry all! …Honestly though, stick ‘Snout’ on loud and try to refrain from bopping.

“The lyrics are so raw and vivid that they pull open your earlobes and make you sweat and wince”

I then listened for a second time and finally managed to think between the flawless minimalist post-punk grooves coordinated by Andrew Fearn for the album (I think they’re his best yet).

Here’s my verdict:

If you’re acquainted with – and can actually tolerate – the first three albums you’ll be fully aware of the state of the nation and general cynical spoken-punk pub rant that the duo are. In some ways, nothing has changed: allegedly, the album’s name comes from a pub that advertised chips, a scotch egg, a pork pie and pickle as ‘English Tapas’ on their menu, and Williamson took this as a way of summarising the shite state of affairs in which Britain currently finds itself.

“I haven’t got time for those who think Sleaford Mods are talentless posers, because they’re simply not”

This theme is the essence of the lyrics on the album, which – let’s face it – is the heart of Sleaford Mods. The voice and rhythm, as iconic as they are, are only the blood that the content pumps. There is far more lyrical depth to the album than there is on the first three, they’re not merely political, they comment on people and their mentalities more than just “Labour” and “Tories” (although undoubtedly Mophead is a clear dig at Boris Johnson).

If there’s an argument about whether punk poetry exists, Jason Williamson has hit both sides with a pool cue and a headbutt on English Tapas. The spoken word and lo-fi minimalism makes them sound like drunken ramblers that gatecrashed an electronic punk gig; yet the lyrics are so raw and vivid that they pull open your earlobes and make you sweat and wince. Lyrically ‘Cuddly’ and ‘Dull’ are definite highlights, they boast serious contemplation of words, images and of course, content that rivals any writer.

I haven’t got time for those who think Sleaford Mods are talentless posers, because they’re simply not. Sure, it might feel mundane hearing them reel off cynical rage track by track and if you want to live in a happy bubble whilst Nottingham and the wider world are being exposed to actual issues, feel free to escape to Temples’ huge new release Volcanoes, or Ed Sheeran’s brilliant ÷, but we need a voice like Sleaford Mods in today’s society. The world isn’t perfect and art is a means of change.

English Tapas is probably the best Sleaford Mods album yet. Instrumentally, it’s flawless, we get the same thumping basslines but there’s additional dabbling with a wider range of instrumentation and layers for MC Williamson to pounce off. The production is more intelligent also. The tracks feel far more accessible and whilst there’s still grit you don’t have to be pissed off to enjoy it; the move to Rough Trade seems to have been a wise choice.

And finally, the subject of their tracks has hit another level. Sure the lyrics are grotesque, but do you think you could actually write better? Me neither.

More of the same please, ‘Mods!

Top Tracks:
‘Time Sands’
‘I Feel So Wrong’

Rhys Thomas

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