Sleaford Mods – Eton Alive

“Of course we’re fuckin’ relevant…” Sleaford Mods don’t so much point at things, they line up their concerns, then they stab to the center. In ‘Kebab Spiders’ – the first track from their new album, Eton Alive – songwriter/lyricist Jason Williamson plants his finger in the map. Sleaford Mods are used as the key – and here’s the stuff that surrounds them. The culturally corrosive, the less-than authentic artists, the menial-minded. Like the rest of the album the point is to pass all things through a litmus test that assess the values of a thing. Are you fundamental, or are you detrimental?

Electronic punk is no new thing – but what Sleaford Mods achieve with their outsider approach to the form – is indeed a new thing. Since their debut, ‘Austerity Dogs‘ the duo have cemented themselves in the collective consciousness of music fans, and in the hearts of a subculture that need representation. So very British, someone should build a replica Stone Henge of concrete and have them play at the center. Because yeah, there’s mysticism here, kind of, in the shape of Andrew Fearn’s beats.

At some points throughout the album we hear to simultaneous bass lines being played with odd polyrhythms. For a band that strip elements back to the bare bones, this kind of naturally occurring complexity is powerful stuff. Where Williamson levels a subject Fearn simultaneously builds and brings depth with beats. Less dance-minded than Dan Le Sac, but equally unusual, the ‘instrumental’ aspect of Eton Alive represents the very best of what this dup offer. Listen to the sarcastic kazoo work on ‘O.B.C.T.’ – and the tone of shit is established.

It would be hard to discuss Eton Alive without mentioning Brexit. The feeling of small-islandism, and the sense of claustrophobia – being locked in close proximity to the enemy – that underpins the map that Sleaford Mods draw. Referencing the influence of a school that breeds English parliamentarians informs everything else that unravels across the album’s twelve tracks. For all the lyrical, and beat-driven certainty there’s a sense that we’re standing on a dissolving raft. Defiance and protest are less of a point than the urgency. We need to recognize the source of the corrosive forces. We need to mute fear, lies, false promise – but how to do this when culture is so deeply reliant on those elements?

“Take me away from it!” shouts Williamson “I don’t wanna go near it!” on the track ‘Top It Up’ It’s tracks like this, ‘Big Burt’, and ‘Discourse’ that are designed to keep us honest. In their unflinching assessment of the grim, Sleaford Mods place integrity above all things. “We never touch the real feeling, just the empty discourse…” This is a line that hangs in the air like a dead canary.

Eton Alive is an album that solidifies the Williamson and Fearn at the center of something bigger than the sum of it’s parts. Sleaford Mods have produced an album that’s of the time, and therefore timeless. Urgent, infuriating, demented, driven and compelling. This is solid shit fried gold.

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