ALBUM REVIEW: Sleaford Mods – UK Grim | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Rough Trade

Released: 10.03.23







Image by Ewen Spencer

It’s ten years since Sleaford Mods’ brutal breakthrough LP, Austerity Dogs. Jason Williamson was a man screaming in the void and living on the precipice through shit jobs and nihilistic inebriation.

Songs like The Wage Don’t Fit, Fizzy and McFlurry were righteous diatribes, beautifully observed and compellingly furious, taking aim at the correct targets, punching across and up, but never down. In the intervening ten years, it goes without saying that Williamson’s life has improved,  he’s a family man and has found sobriety.

Their last record, Spare Ribs, was something of a successful change in direction, with more sentimental songs like Mork And Mindy and an openness to collaboration, which is present here too. UK Grim attempts to return to the aesthetic and intent of their earlier work, with mixed results. Lead single UK Grim is an amusing and bile-flecked meditation on the state of things with some killer, laugh-out-loud funny lyrics.

Elsewhere, Williamson’s ire is misjudged, D.I.Why takes aim at bougie punks in a way that doesn’t quite sit right, Tilldipper takes a concept that the band spent a line on in Jobseeker and spread it out thinly over three minutes. It’s the songs here that take risks that are the most satisfying; Apart From You is amongst the group’s more melodic compositions, Andrew Fearn’s production on Tory Kong is among some of his most original music. Florence Shaw from Dry Cleaning puts in a humorous and grim turn on Force Ten From Navarone, and I Claudius feels endearingly stream of consciousness. Melancholy centrepiece Don is among the best songs in the band’s canon.

It’s really a records of two halves; where Spare Ribs sounded like a coherent statement of intent, UK Grim is considerably more hodge-podge, with some successful attempts at experimentation and some reasonable tedious retreads of old tropes, but given that Sleaford Mods diligently trot out a record every 18 months or so, it would be naïve to think that they deal in absolute consistency, and half a great Sleaford Mods album is better than nothing. Crucially, there are moments here where Willaimson’s rage sounds cartoonish where it once sounded vital, and he sounds most himself here when he isn’t ranting. 

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