Vocalist Jason Williamson has been performing under the name Sleaford Mods since 2007, but it was only since he joined forces with Andrew Fearn (beats / electronics) in 2012 around the time of the release of the ‘Wank’ album that the duo’s media profile started to skyrocket. Indeed, the last five years have been a hell of a ride for the Nottingham-based duo, shifting from DIY basement parties and art squats to a slot on the Glastonbury lineup, and recent guest appearances on albums by The Prodigy and Leftfield.
Perhaps most significantly, this latest album ‘English Tapas’ (the ninth under the Sleaford Mods moniker) arrives on the Rough Trade label, a far cry from the duo’s earlier independent Cdr releases. Given the fact that Sleaford Mods are playing substantially larger venues these days, it’s perhaps a simple practicality that they’ve had to rework their sound slightly, and as preceding single ‘TCR’ hinted, there’s certainly a more accessible feel to the tracks collected here, with the stripped back minimalism of Fearn’s backing tracks increasingly incorporating punky riffs and indie rock elements. While ‘English Tapas’ is certainly the most accessible entry point for listeners new to Sleaford Mods however, Williamson’s dense, often rant-like verbal delivery hasn’t lost any of its edge here.
Opening track ‘Army Nights’ sounds more indebted to the likes of the UK Subs or Stranglers than anything else, as a monotonous kickdrum and snare beat and bassline power away beneath Williamson’s rapid-fire vocal attack (“they call me Dyson, and I fucking clean up”), the chorus sections offering some of the most tuneful singing he’s indulged in to date. ‘Just Like We Do’ meanwhile sees a punk-funk infused groove slotting in neatly beneath Williamson’s venomous attack on jealous social media trolls (“given half a chance, you’d walk around like a twat like we do”), but while there’s certainly a more band-oriented feel here, he definitely hasn’t toned down his trademark scatalogical / sweary leanings.
Elsewhere, ‘Snout’ sees Williamson offering up a travelogue of the evils of the white powder (“I’m making sure that I don’t give my kids anything to feel embarrassed about”) that rides a seedy funk backing of bass and clattering hiphop breaks, the monotonous groove if anything heightening the rising sense of tension in his delivery, before ‘Cuddly’ offers up the closest thing here to one of Williamson’s beloved Wu-Tang joints, as he drops the pace of his verbal flow slightly against a lurching backdrop of fat bass and clicking hiphop kicks (“I think I’ll call myself Lord Bastard, I’m so bastard, da da”). While there’s certainly a far more accessible nature to ‘English Tapas’, it definitely hasn’t resulted in any dilution of their content-packed tracks.