John Harris

Journalist & Author

Grammar Wanker: Sleaford Mods 2007‑2014 by Jason Williamson – review

Drug comedowns and fist fights – an angry and uncompromising collection of lyrics. Who else in modern English music is doing anything quite like this?

This article contains language some readers may find offensive

Contrary to what you may have heard, rock music is not quite dead. Its foreground is often dominated by people of pensionable age, hot new acts often arrive when they are in their mid-30s – or even older – and musicians are no longer expected to reflect the social and political currents of their age. But there are arguably more of them around than ever before, and a lot of them are very artistically accomplished. Last month, for example, I bought the new album by a talented group from Sweden called the Amazing – which, like so much modern rock, offers an amorphous air of yearning, redemption, and sadness, while coming very close to meaning nothing at all. But in that record, and others, I have learned to quite like the sense of vacancy. Indeed, after years of expecting guitar-toting herberts to have read Marx and have something to say about the developing world, dropping those expectations feels surprisingly liberating.

And yet, and yet. Among critics in particular, there remains a longing for music that deals in hardened social comment, as evidenced by the feeling of relief bound up in the belated recognition of the Nottingham duo Sleaford Mods. In early 2014, their first notice in the Guardian hailed “the most uncompromising British protest music made in years”, and the fact that the album they released the previous year was titled Austerity Dogs only heightened the sense of the cavalry coming over the hill. Their songs were – and still are – bound up with the arse-end of modern work, the grimmer aspects of weekend hedonism, and a very contemporary awareness of horizons shrinking at speed. Who else in modern English music is doing anything similar?

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