Album of the week: Sleaford Mods – Eton Alive

Sleaford Mods music sounds like it was recorded in the basement of a pub, with Andrew Fearn balancing his laptop on a beer barrel while Jason Williamson shouts over the din from the punters above between buying rounds in the pub. Fearn’s raw, inimitable approach to production is only matched by Williamson’s scathing indictment of the world, but on their latest LP, “Eton Alive” you’d be surprised to find that their commentary is not entirely directed at the British upper-class as the title suggests.

Sleaford Mods’ electronic Punk sound has been cemented over four preceding records, rooted in the same three chord philosophy of their Punk Rock forbearers, but wielding laptops instead of guitars and whittling the political ideologies of the seventies down to the everyday woes of the working class British citizen. “I’ve got two brown bins, but should I have one, what the council don’t know won’t hurt them.”

Fronted by Williamson’s gruff vocal, which offers a sort of antithesis to the puerile charms of the likes of Mike Skinner and Johnny Rotten, Sleaford Mods’ music aligns itself more with the tone of the chatter at the local pub, trying to find the brief necessary escape from the realities outside.

Williamson’s matter-of-fact tone in rattling off through some abstract narrative is as approachable as ever on “Eton Alive”. He paints a lurid picture of things like social media culture, celebrity, the establishment in the record industry, and consumerism with Fearn (wearing his “I still hate Thatcher” t-shirt) leaving enough room for the vocalist’s commentary in his bare-knuckled production. Bass guitars and live kick drums bring a new dimension to Sleaford Mod’s sound on this record from the tin-can electro-pop of their previous albums.

There was some mention of some soul influences petering through this latest record, but besides for the organic tones of the production this record is still more of a full-frontal assault at superficial level than any deep, soul searching realisation. Sleaford Mods’ lyrics wrap it all up in some abstract twisted metaphor, open for interpretation at times, but always making sure it gets it point across. There’s that usual nihilistic “everything is shit at the moment” strain underpinning everything, which in the shadow of Brexit and right-wing conservatism feeds a larger meta-narrative, depending on the listener’s perspective. The abrasive word-salad Williamson tosses over to his audience in a kind of a tabloid word jumble, is easy enough to decipher if you’re looking for more out of the music than its musical immediacy, but it is up to the listener’s perspective.

Sleaford Mods are the Bob Dylans and Kris Kristoffersons for the pre-millennial unidentified generation; the generation born between generation x and -z; wondering around in the purgatory wasteland that can be found between their credit-consuming generation mother and fathers and the optimistic ideologies of the next generation. Themes in Sleaford Mods music are nihilistic to the point of utter conviction on “Eton Alive”, giving a voice to the everyday man in search of something tangible and accomplishable in a world with too many impossible parameters. “