Of the people, by the people, and for the people. These words, delivered over 150 years ago in Gettysburg, may seem out of place in discussing the new release by Sleaford Mods, Chubbed Up +, however, for Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn it seems to fit. Often in times of political and economic turmoil, the younger generation ignites the fires to upheaval and social change, which is why there will always be a place for a group like Sleaford Mods. This might also explain why the band’s newest release Chubbed Up + is garnering so much attention. While the album does nothing to depart sonically from previous releases, with repetitive elementary beats underneath a relentless verbal assault on less than glamorous minimum wage and socially under-appreciated lives, Sleaford Mod’s new release might be perfectly timed to feed fans’ fury of the current socio-economic issues around the world. This duo of Nottingham verbal venom spitters are sick of the system and tired of low pay, which is forcefully driven home on Chubbed Up +.
To be clear, this is not a record of catchy hooks, killer riffs, or crystalline production, that has never been Sleaford Mods’ goal.
There are entertainers on Chicago train platforms that create more sonically vivid images in one song than this whole record may have combined. Each of the 12 songs follow the same formula, with bare basic beats that sound like someone playing drums on a Casio keyboard. The beats are so simplistic and unimaginative, that it is difficult to regard Sleaford Mods’ creation as falling under the category of music, as the tracks portray the image of an angry beatnik at a poetry slam more than a band playing songs. With lyrics like, “Desperately clutching to a leaf-long depression, supplied to me by the NHS/It’s anyone’s guess how I got here, it’s anyone’s guess how I’ll go,” from “Jobseeker,” it is clear Jason and Andrew don’t care.
Sleaford Mods does not exist to make you dance or make you sing along, the band doesn’t mind if you hear its creations at your local club, not even a little.
No, Sleaford Mods exists because of the band’s willingness to unabashedly attack the ignominy that is, in their view, the state of British and world politics. The Vesuvial spew of harsh critique, mashed with the often hilarious top-of-mind distractions, (“So Mr. Williamson, what have you done to find gainful employment/Fuck off/I sat around the house wanking” from “Jobseeker”) are what make the band unlike much of the current music landscape.
Sleaford Mods started as a one man project in Nottingham, England in 2006 when Williamson began writing beats and lyrics. In 2009, Williamson hooked up with Fearn and the duo took to stages together, with Fearn working the bare but driving and hypnotic backing tracks to Williamson’s unapologetic vitriol.
Now, in Chubbed Up + the duo has done little to change the equation that has led to its rising popularity in the UK. Fearn continues to copy and paste flat beats like a DJ at one of Eminem’s Eight Mile rap battles, keeping the focus off of the musical creativity, but all eyes instead on Williamson as he calculatingly sprays his bitterness toward the self-aggrandizers of Europe. But perhaps there is something more to this new release. If listened to closely, maybe Sleaford Mods has acknowledged a wider audience and broadened its attack.
On Chubbed Up + it appears that Williamson has traded in his laser-guided assaults for lyrical lightening that cuts a wider swath.
In past releases, Sleaford Mods’ lyrics were precise and targeted on the band’s own backgrounds and hometowns. But on Chubbed Up + there is some indication the focus has shifted to a broader criticism as they reach regional recognition. On “Scenery,” Williamson scowls, “The Red Curtain are wankers, wanker and sickle,” displaying his love for communism and Russia; a far cry from the admonitions of London and his Nottingham roots, which litters earlier Sleaford Mods releases. However, Williamson and Fearn have not mistakenly aimed for the mainstream. To do so would abandon the one thing that has brought the band the most recognition. The press in the UK has remarked that what makes Sleadford Mods stand out is its “visionary ranting” and the fact that they sound “like nothing else.”
But not to worry. On Chubbed Up +, Williamson still holds on to his unrelenting wit and comedic timing, all while maintaining a frustrated and angry edge. In “Fear of Anarchy” he asks: “Meat sweats and carpet suppliers, the Prince of Persia’s got a nice life, what does it take to make it all go wrong?” While Chubbed Up + will not earn awards for its composition, there is something to be said for timing. Williamson and Fearn are striking political and satirical blows at the establishment, when youth around the world are primed for ignition. Whether it was over 150 years ago, or whether it is 2014 and beyond, people have always wanted the same things, to define themselves and their future, on terms agreed upon by the collective. What Sleaford Mods has created with Chubbed Up + is a wise-cracked political tirade, authored by the people and delivered for the people.
Sleaford Mods – Chubbed Up + tracklist:
- “The Comittee”
- “14 Day Court”
- “Black Monday”
- “Jolly Fucker”
- “Tweet Tweet Tweet”
- “Routine Dean”
- “Pubic Hair Ltd”
- “Bring Out The Canons”
- “Fear of Anarchy”