Sleaford Mods film rips Austerity Britain a fresh one.
We know about British bands making it big in their 20s – but what about in their 40s? Christine Franz’s excellent documentary about Sleaford Mods shows us three middle-aged men whose dedication, creativity, productivity and relative lack of success helped them keep it real until they blew up – as they say – in the last few years. Refreshingly, even gloriously, they’ve got the maturity and sense of humour to get a handle on it all.
Jason Williamson – who, like Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, once worked in a benefits office – rips Austerity Britain a fresh one with his uncompromisingly aggressive, funny post-punk stream-of-rap-consciousness. He is a startling stage presence, shivering and quivering like someone getting the Toronto Blessing, sometimes scooping his hand across his head like a cat washing his ears. Andrew Fearn contributes the musical loops and riffs, with his laptop on a beer crate. Offstage, ex-bus-driver Steve Underwood is their manager, DIY label chief, mate, and the band’s unquantifiable soul.
Sleaford Mods rail at the complacency, cruelty and mediocrity of zero-hours Britain. They are plugged into disaffection and Britain’s white working class. But they’re not alt.Brexiteers like some punk legends we could mention. They are happy touring Europe, where audiences – especially in Germany – love them. I found myself thinking of Peter Handke’s play Offending the Audience. I also found myself thinking of Pet Shop Boys.
Jason’s elegant and glamorous wife Claire is a star turn, drolly telling us about the “cunt flu” Jason suffers for a week after returning home after touring, grumpy about being made to load the dishwasher. Bad language is what incidentally earned this an 18 certificate: “kunst” is German for “art”. I’m afraid that national treasure status is Jason’s whether he wants it or not.
The article appeared in The Guardian April 20.