Sleaford Mods - Key Markets

by Sean Hewson Rating:8 Release Date:2015-07-24
Key Markets is the Sleaford Mods third album with the current line-up. It's going to be the one that most people buy now that they've been on the TV and in the tabloids. But this isn't just due to feuds with other bands and swearing about politicians - they can back it up. 
 
Most the songs on Key Markets are built around Andrew Hearn's bass and drum backing. Occasionally other sounds appear, like a twinkling sound on 'Silly Me' or a tambourine on 'Rupert Trousers'. These interjections are enigmatic - you begin to feel that they must mean something. Why has he decided to put a little bit of organ at the end of 'Arabia'?
 
The reality is that Hearn knows exactly what he's doing. He skillfuly maintains that balance between keeping the listener interested while never intruding on Jason Williamson's vocals and words. He also knows when to stop - almost every song stops abruptly. There's nothing as middle-class as a slow fade-out here.
 
Hearn's skill, I think, is knowing when to make the slight change - like when he goes for a particularly retarded (and excellent) bass and drum sound on 'Giddy on the Ciggies' just as the energy is flagging. He's always there keeping you interested, but never micro-managing.
 
Jason Williamson's vocals are also intriguing. They are mainly spat out, occasionally sung and sometimes spoken with the comedian's sense of timing that he uses for choruses: "Do you want one?... Fine... You know where the fooking shop is... don't ya."
 
Listening to his delivery you can hear Steve Ignorant from Crass as well as a bit of Two Tone. There's also some Shaun Ryder in the gutter surrealism of 'Tarantula Deadly Cargo'. What I find intriguing, and this was also the case on Divide and Exit, is his name-dropping of 80s, 90s and 00s celebs like Shakin' Stevens, Von Bondies, Rocket From the Crypt, Cannon & Ball, etc. I can't decide if they're easy rhymes, he's amusing himself or - like me - he's so old that time passes without him noticing.
 
Lyrically, Key Markets has everything you want from Williamson - profanity, profundity, the word "titcake", tragedy, comedy and occasional flights of lyricism on a par with the "A man is born with no state of mind" verse from 'The Message', or that verse in 'Heroin' where Lou Reed wants to be a sailor. Williamson comes across as a highly intelligent, perceptive man who has, thus far, under-achieved. I agree with him about just about everything but there are two problems: Firstly, as he says himself - 'No One's Bothered' (I don't think he believes this or he wouldn't create or care); secondly, the position of opposition is unassailable - he can't be wrong unless the Queen asks him to form a government. Personally, I hope she does.
 
This is a strong, third album, a continuation of the concepts and styles that worked so well on Divide and Exit. It will undoubtedly be their biggest album so far. What most interests me about the Sleaford Mods is the way they remain so engaging with such a limited palette. It's the same live, where they manage to make a feature of one man pressing play on a laptop.
 
I don't understand how they do it so I'm fascinated to see where they go next, both live and on record. They're also right about Alex James, but not Dave Rowntree - I think he's quite nice. 

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