Sleaford Mods – Key Markets (Harbinger Sound)

Posted by vibrations on 06-09-15

Anyone waiting for Sleaford Mods bubble to burst is going to be bitterly disappointed by this album. Rather than finally exposing the supposed limitations of the duos set up and modus operandi, third ‘proper’ album Key Markets gloriously, deliriously, fuck-off-you-cunt-ly sees Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn not only consolidating their trademark minimalist beats and maximised withering wordage schtick but expanding its possibilities to the point where anything’s possible. Sadly it probably won’t do anything at all to convince Sleaford Mods naysayers, abusers and plain fingers-in-the-ears-I’m-not-listening-la-la-la brigade that the duo are doing anything at all worthwhile either. Ah well, such is the divisive nature of disputed genius.

The main thing that comes shouting out from these songs is the huge growth in confidence the pair have garnered, presumably from two years of constant gigging for audiences who (mostly) seem to get what they’re doing (because mostly the naysayers haven’t actually seen them live, I’d wager). Crucially this seems to have fuelled rather than drained Williamson’s creative well spring, so his trademark stories of living on the breadline are delivered in language that revels in the creative use of language, words, rhythm and metre in a blatantly poetic way. Yes, I did say poetic. Aside from the usual machine gun tirades, the lyrically dazzling ‘Bronx In A Six’, Williamson pushes into surrealism on ‘Tarantula Deadly Cargo’ and makes explicit the links his style and technique clearly share with similar vocal traditions in rap, hip hop, reggae and toasting. The notable lines are too numerous to detail here but the kaleidoscopic tumble of allusions, ideas and images make the album a giddy rush of synapse sparking.

As for the other side of the duo, unless Fearn has used his new found wealth to get his hands on some high end music software that allows him to, for example, accurately reproduce the sound of a hand sliding up and down a guitar neck, then we must acknowledge that Sleaford Mods have used (sharp intake of breath) proper, live instruments to record the music on much of this album. Much of the knee jerk negative criticism of Sleaford Mods has revolved around the idea that Fearn’s contribution is amateurish and Far Too Simple To Be Considered Great Music. This is and always was an entirely unjustified criticism, because as any fool no, simplicity is so very difficult to execute well and Fearn exploits simplicity beautifully. Hopefully hearing Fearn’s punchy, sinuous, endlessly inventive beats played on Real Instruments will finally convince the Luddites that yes he is fucking brilliant at what he does. The nodding out lope of ‘Tarantula Deadly Cargo’, the barrelling barge of ‘No One’s Bothered’, the jazzy electronic fuzz of ‘Rupert Trousers’, the hard minimal funk of ‘Silly Me’ and the tabbed up jittery rush of ‘Giddy On the Ciggies’ encompass a range of rhythmic approaches that Fearn clearly revels in.

Album of the year, no question.

Steve Walsh

On the Vibrations stereo...