Made up of Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn, Spare Ribs puts the Sleaford Mods one album short of a dozen – this being their eleventh, following on last year’s compilation album and 2019’s Eton Alive. Spare Ribs is unique not only because it’s really, really good, but also because it chronicles the surreal, lysergic, dystopian world everyone now inhabits, a world disturbingly similar to that depicted in Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, where death tolls increase along with mushrooming paranoia.
Williamson has knack for perceiving and relaying the bizarre, contemporary status quo, an existing state of affairs lacking modern equivalence. Blending elements of new wave, potent techno rhythms, Jack White-like stripped-down punk, rap, and R&B, the Sleaford Mods pump out grand, compelling, captivating music.
Encompassing a baker’s dozen of tracks, Spare Ribs begins with “A New Brick,” traveling on a techno-rap beat with tints of reggae-lite flowing through it. Followed by the thrumming bassline of “Short Cummings,” a reference to one of Boris’ henchmen, Williamson embarks on a dazzling, minimalistic inquisition into who really pays for the boorish policies of government officials. In the end, as if channeling Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, he concludes the workers pay the toll, summing it all up in the cutting, delicious observation – “Every person I meet needs a smack in the head.”
Highlights on the album include “Nudge It,” featuring Amy Taylor of Amyl and The Sniffers, rolls out on a throbbing, punk-hip-hop rhythm accented by a tasty chop-stick-like piano. Brogue rapping vocals infuse the dissing lyrics with withering gibes at somebodies, aka VIPs, who feign uneasiness but don’t in truth give a damn. They’re merely slumming.
“Out There” rumbles forth on country-laced hip-hop and punk flavors, undulating on a listing rhythmic pulse. “Glimpses” rides pared down punk harmonics vibrating on wobbly tones. On “Top Room,” the Sleaford Mods try to come to grips with the pervasive bedlam of a world now ravaged by Covid-19 descending into Oswald Spengler’s anti-utopia.
“Mork N Mindy” features Billy Nomates and delves into the dissolution of the nuclear family and the forfeiture of achieving the pipedream of something better than privation and circumstantial insufficiency. Haling the situation, Williamson voices: “I wanted things to smell like a meadow, not like hell.”’
One of the album’s prize tracks is “I Don’t Rate You,” opening on a scrummy drum shuffle capped by a skew-whiff droning synth later embellished by percolating rounded tones, while chanting rap-infused lyrics give the tune clipped dynamics.
On one level, Spare Ribs displays a remarkable musical effrontery, having a go at assuaging humankind’s vulnerability; on another level, it provides commentary on the world’s present predicament, investing the mess with a frisson of urgency magnified by the presence of others in the same boat.
Spare Ribs irresistibly aligns listeners with Laocoön and his sons, who, attacked by giant sea serpents, i.e., Covid-19, struggled against the enveloping coils. Only this time, according to the Sleaford Mods, if people maintain their cool, don modified Guy Fawkes masks, and wash their hands, they might sidestep becoming victims of fatuous leaders, as well as the virus.
UK electro-punk outfit Sleaford Mods release their brand-new album, Spare Ribs, January 15 via Rough
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