Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sleaford Mods, JB Barrington, Ceramic Hobs

Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, May 16th 2015

Having been to many a noise gig at the Brudenell, in the days where a gathering of 25 was deemed a success, I’m more than a little alarmed to find myself pushed up against the back wall with one arse cheek clinging to a bit of seat backing for purchase. The last time I was here they had tables set out cabaret style, now its just shiny black contract flooring and later, a wash of crushed plastic pint pots and Red Stripe cans. They have proper door staff  too and Underwood has his work cut out manning the merch table. Am I still in the Brudenell or have I, by some mystery of the space time continuum, been transported to a parallel universe where rabid punters throw tenners at you for band t-shirts and the band actually mean something and have worth and gravitas and could spend the night pissing up against the posters advertising the upcoming non-entities and nobody here would complain. Well, not much.

From my precarious perch at the back of a crammed Brudenell it soon becomes apparent that Jase Williamson’s voice is teetering on the brink of disintegration. Months of hard touring has done its damage but the audience appears unconcerned instead singing along with unfettered joy whilst producing football terrace chants with which to raise a plastic pint pot to.

But first the Ceramic Hobs who by their very nature are either falling out, falling in, crashing down the side of a drunken wave, dying, being sectioned or being unpredictably brilliant. Tonight, with a decent sound system to work through, they manage to produce a performance that bridges gaps between punk, rock and psychedelic insanity. The chords are chunky, the clown rubbing the babies head is spitting electronic sparks, the keyboard player doesn’t play it with her arse, singer Simon Morris wears a Grateful Dead baseball cap, a Venetian opera mask and a Whitehouse t-shirt and reminds us that he has one of the best voices in the business. He’s also singing in his underwear. The drummer keeps time, especially on the tricky Hong Kong Goolagong [a sexually ambiguous Australian Aboriginal hitchhiking demon, if you must know] which wavers all over the road like a drunk driver with no air in his passenger side tyre. The guitarist stage left throws playing cards into the air with random words written on them. Morris holds up a small Dr Steg canvas with a cutting from the local Blackpool press documenting the case of an old lady who committed suicide on Christmas Eve. As they've been doing for a while now Morris ends things with an a capella version of Mr Blue Sky. This is the kind of band that needs to be on the Sleaford Mods support list. There is no more room in this life for indie landfill, bored rock, prima donna wank guitarist who think that their next big break is just around the corner. Give us the Ceramic Hobs and Makakarooma and their ilk and leave that tired indie shit to the students and the sales reps.

But I digress.

JB Barrington is the Manchester poet I last saw supporting Sleaford Mods in Hebden Bridge. He’s John Cooper Clark crossed with a Tourettes afflicted Tom O’Connor. His best poem is his first which is about greed and the predictability of everything being done for moneys sake [ever wondered why your local’s now a Tescos Express, ever wondered why wars are always fought in oil rich countries..’]. At Hebden Bridge he got heckled by a feminist who took exception to him using the ‘C’ word in a derogatory manner and like all pros its now in his set. As is the odd gag and biting social observations. And after a short fifteen minutes worth Andrew Fearn appears with his laptop.

Witnessing the rise of Sleaford Mods is a new one for me. The kind of bands I take to normally wander around in the darkened corridors of obscurity until they eventually die of disinterest or boredom all while making horrible noises. To see Sleaford Mods being praised in the media, selling out tours and most importantly, making the most relevant music this country has heard since the early 80’s gives me a warm feeling inside that can only be replicated by several brandies and cat videos on Youtube. I’ve never been to a gig before where people recite sections of lyrics to each other whilst making their way from the venue. Something is happening here. In several fleeting years Sleaford Mods have quickly risen from obscure label curiosity to arguably the most important band in the country. In fact, take away the arguably, I can think of no other band that are as culturally relevant at a time where, as a country, we are staring down the barrel of another five years of Tory governance. Is it too much of an exaggeration to say that we could be at the start of something big here?  Two blokes and a laptop are making 99% of music being made today sound irrelevant. And that's because it is. Our airwaves are a constant stream of spongy blobs of nothingness, servers are crammed with the meaningless twaddle of dilettantes, ears are filled with the inconsequential drivel of faded rock stars, socialites, wannabee’s and never will be’s, people so far detached from the comings and goings of ordinary people, so surrounded by a constant coterie of fawning acolytes and blind fans that they mistake what they do for worth. It has no worth. It is worth-less.   

Sleaford Mods have taken a sharp axe to the tree of rock and have felled it before our very eyes shitting on the stump as they do so, ’twenty five years its taken me to get here and its fucking shit’ croaks Willaimson. As they come out for their three song encore the real juice of the evening is in the second and new track ‘Tarantula’, a more mellower offering from the new album that, if I got this right, is about those poor bastards risking life and limb aboard leaky boats trying to escape misery and tyranny. How many bands do you know writing songs about that?

That Williamson manages to get to the end of the quick hours worth of a gig is a miracle of sorts. I half expect his voice to just disappear, his jaw going up and down with nothing but the odd squeak emerging. The full house at the Brudenell wouldn’t have given a toss. They’d have swept the pair up carried them through the street of LS6 like kings aloft singing Jolly Fucker and Tweet, Tweet, Tweet and any other of what are now becoming classics until they came across a slop shop and bought them curry and beer until the sun came up.


Anonymous said...

Bloody hell you nailed it! Been a fan for a while me and mi mates feel so strongly about the sleaford mods!they are just genuine and fucking angry a d so are we.I'm a cynical cuntwho has been made so by just watching how the world is unfolding.everyone bought and sold or just rubbished and destroyed. One thousand disappointments !!! We know the mods have had them to.difference is they have a clearer focus and way of expressing it.I guess its catharsis for all the things we feel and I a world where everything is either a pose or a stepping stone and people are confused and too self concious to do anything.the mods cut through it all even the way Andrew just presses a button and swayed along if you look at his face he feels every word and so do we.the honesty of just pressing play on the laptop is the essence why pretend you are playing the song when ur not! O fucking love em and we fucking need them.

Joe Graham said...

Well said. They make nearly all of everything else about sound shite, and they're a pair of absolute gents.

Anonymous said...

So the argument goes that through the intensity of the performance and the lyrics the Sleaford Mods channel the anger and impotent frustration felt by so many in Tory austerity Britain. In respect of these two emotions both on stage performances are key with the vituperative vocals offset by the laconic what the fuck laptop operation.

Live it is undeniably something to behold but ultimately this is performance. Offstage as many comment they seem like surprisingly nice lads and just as well as who could keep up that degree of intensity 24/7.

But performance and no frills authenticity are uneasy bedfellows unless mediated by awareness on the part of performer and audience that this is indeed just that, an act. Whilst SM are themselves open that they are staging a performance too many of the SM’s audience are like leary old lags at a strip joint forgetting that the onstage cavorting is anything other than simulated sensuosness that in a way this is a joke.

Scope through twitter and you see lots of blokey assertions that SM are the “real thing” not fake like Oasis or Kasabian and the “best thing to happen to music” for years cutting through the manufactured pap pop served up by Cowell and crew. SM encourage this in interviews and by their winding up of the likes of Weller and Gallagher. All very amusing but when did anybody last take such bands seriously, when did anybody last take popular music that seriously?

If SM makes you feel real, authentic and somehow putting one in the eye to Tory austerity well good luck with it....

Simon said...

Excellent and thoughtful points, Anonymous at 4.48 - it's entertainment not revolution but such a relief to hear the sort of sentiments in songs like Jobseeker expressed openly, great to see tweets saying 'we want freedom not work'.

As well as the laddish elements a fair proportion of appreciative women were at this show which was good to see - they may not be bawling away with fists in the air but certainly seem to get it.

Strange, difficult and with luck transformative times are coming for the UK and this will include more civil disorder - for some Sleaford Mods may be a catalyst and soundtrack to this.