Sleaford Mods are a hard act to pin down. Their minimalist and eclectic sound, twinned with their politically-charged and social-commentary witticisms, have earned them considerable critical acclaim. They are hard workers too, with seven full-lengths to their name. But there is something of a novelty quality about them, what with beatmaker Andrew Fearn standing idle when they perform usually with a Becks in hand, and frontman Jason Williamson left to wince and shout his hot-tempered flow. They are postmodern in form and content, and yet reject such bourgeois categorisation. And that's the point; it's not that they don't want to be pinned down at the risk of being constricted, it's that they just don't care. Say what you like about them (they'll probably say worse back), but they are sincere and upfront about the way they want to do things, and there is no pretension otherwise. Tonight the duo play at home to a full capacity crowd at Nottingham's Rescue Rooms.
Keeping it local, support tonight comes from grunge young-uns Kagoule. The trio have for some time now been something of cult heroes to the Nottingham music scene, being picked up by Denizen Record when they were just seventeen, and it is hardly a surprise then that the venue is at full capacity already. Opening on the tom-heavy "Monarchy", the sound unfortunately needs warming up and doesn't do the track's sludgy tone justice. But soon all is well and the joint vocal efforts of Cai Burns and Lucy Hatter are on point for "Adjust The Way". Kagoule's sound seems to become more sophisticated with each show, and their recent single "Gush", with its paced verses and cathartic closing on "I need to get away I can't believe it's come to this", is fucking triumphant.
Never one to make a grand entrance, Sleaford Mods stroll on stage sharply and unruffled, kicking straight into the charmingly titled "Bunch of Cunts". Vocally, it's fuelled by a kind of rage that is only just controlled and that vehemently charges Williamson's commentary, which is given especial relevancy to his Nottingham audience: "Lost souls in the Victoria Centre look lost bruv / Doctor Dre, them headphones are shit and they're fucking everywhere mate". The track, from the latest EP Tiswas, maintains its demo sound, and more clout is given to particular numbers like "Fizzy", with its garage-band beat and dark bass line. "This one's about your manager" he begins, in comic counterpart to the song’s ending: "sack the fucking manager, sack the fucking manager".
It's hard to gauge how the show is going for 'the Mods' themselves, as they remain reasonably laconic between songs. Fearn seems reasonably chirpy, smiling at the crowd with beer in hand and nodding satisfyingly to his own beats, whilst Williamson is in his characteristically wired zone, flinching and flicking with his onstage afflictions and walking in loops on stage at intervals. But he has some fun with the Rescue Rooms crowd as he jokingly mistakes Nottingham for Derby before dropping into "Tied up in Nottz", the number from last year's Divide and Exit and that has since become something of a classic.
Sleaford Mods’ set tonight focalises their lyrical ingenuity, taking some of the poetry from hip-hop and charging it with the anger and speed of punk, as in their closing track "Tweet Tweet Tweet": "this the human race, UKIP and your disgrace / chopped heads on London streets / all you zombies tweet tweet tweet". And yet, by the end something is not quite right, being left with a feeling of something to be desired. This is in all probability the choice of venue for their performance. Whilst it is laudable that Williamson and Fearn could sell out the large capacity venue, it is ultimately a space intended for performance and spectacle; trademarks that seem to be at odds with what Sleaford Mods stand for.