In Review: Sleaford Mods - 'Second'
It’s hard not to appreciate Sleaford Mods for what they are: brutally honest, scathingly witty, DIY professionals. Behind the fagged stream of consciousness spewed forth by lyricist Jason Williamson – who, having cited influences from Wu-Tang Clan to The Stone Roses has managed the precarious task of making class politics catchy – there’s the rawness of Andrew Fearn’s beats, and indeed Fearn’s whole vibe; a man whose preferred position at shows is to loiter idly at the back with a Red Stripe. Needless to say, the Nottingham duo captured the nation’s imagination by tapping into the crooked, angry soul of austerity Britain, beset by benefit quotas and bureaucracy. 'Second', their latest offering, is Sleafords through and through.
The track was recorded back in 2017 after the English Tapas sessions, and has a very simple premise: who you are must consistently come second to what you own. This single idea is questioned over and over throughout the track, punctuated by Williamson’s occasional retching and Fearn’s bass museme: “Why am I second to the boots I wear? / Why am I second to my coat and hair? / Why am I second to the car I got? / My watch, and my jeans, and my polo top?” It’s this type of Speaker’s Corner punk that gave Sleaford Mods a platform in the first place, and ‘Second’ is a straight continuation of this tradition, ending with a bleak avowal of British society as “a landscape starved of real care”.
It would be remiss to not touch on the acerbic wit and self-deprecation that runs like a mainline vein through this track, and through the Sleaford oeuvre in its entirety. Williamson is capable of employing Cooper-Clarke levels of riff-comedy, and isn’t afraid to laugh at his own wretchedness, rendering the material that bit harder-hitting for it. The accompanying video for ‘Second’ sees Kate Dickie and Emma Stansfield play the ‘real’ Sleaford Mods performing the track at an local pub’s open mic night – with Williamson and Fearn looking on from an adjoining table. Dickie’s performance, letting loose as the Mod’s frontman, is a joy to watch, adding a veneer of absurdist comedy to a profoundly mournful track.
In short, ‘Second’ is exactly what you want and expect from a Sleaford Mods single, the punk ravings of Broken Britain’s sad clown.
'Second' can be found on the All That Glue compilation, out now on Rough Trade Records.