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Sleaford Mods - All That Glue Music Album Reviews

The British punk-hop duo’s career-spanning collection shows their unlikely ascent from ranting on sidewalks to ranting at Brixton Academy. 

The British punk-hop duo Sleaford Mods are really a trio: vocalist Jason Williamson, producer/professional button-pusher Andrew Fearn, and Williamson’s water bottle. Williamson doesn’t simply leave his Evian by his floor monitor in case he needs an occasional swig; it’s affixed to his left hand, the life force that allows him to shout himself hoarse for 60 minutes about how everything’s fooked. His desperate gulping forces you to contemplate the superhuman effort he puts into his bilious rants, and, as this new career-spanning collection affirms, the effect remains just as potent when you’re getting berated at home.
It makes sense that one of Britain’s most breathless acts would want to push pause now and take a look back: 2019’s Eton Alive cracked the UK Top 10, capping the Mods’ unlikely ascent from playing on sidewalks to headlining Brixton Academy. All That Glue, which bypasses a number of crucial cuts, has no designs on being definitive. Rather, the compilation positions a handful of the Mods’ most popular songs (“Tied Up in Nottz,” “Fizzy,” “Tweet Tweet Tweet”) as familiar cross streets on a back-alley tour of non-album singles, cassette-only releases, alternate versions, and previously unreleased ephemera. Fortunately, with a band as lyrically and sonically crude as Sleaford Mods, there’s zero dissonance between their official and non-official output: All That Glue’s unearthed tracks easily punch as hard as their better-known counterparts, and each showcases Williamson’s bottomless reservoir of ways to vent spleen.
The story of Sleaford Mods is, of course, inextricable from that of England itself over the past 10 years. Thanks to dole-line dispatches like “Jobseeker,” the group emerged as Britain’s preeminent punk-rock band for an austerity age where even the most basic punk-rock rudiments (electric guitars, amplifiers, drums) seem like unattainable luxuries, and where no one can afford to feed their families but there’s “digital time boards on the new public shitters.” Williamson’s lyrics provide grave diagnoses on multiple English societal sicknesses, including its rightward creep in the Brexit era; on “Rochester,” he recounts a confrontation with a “separatist pub racist.”

And yet he also speaks to quandaries that resonate for listeners with no idea what the EDL or BHS is. On “TCR,” he’s just a forty-something dad trying to keep his cool when chaos reigns both inside and outside his household. On “Fat Tax,” Williamson grapples with the new reality of being a touring artist in middle age: “If I play another venue covered in stickers where everybody chain smokes, it’s so no no!”

All That Glue’s chronological sequence emphasizes the most remarkable thing about Sleaford Mods’ improbable success—i.e., that their rising popularity has had negligible effect on their music. (To wit, even Mark E. Smith—who, by law, must make a cameo in every Sleaford Mods review—eventually moved onto congenial Kinks and Gene Vincent covers.) But its cherry-picked tracklist also provides a clearer picture of the duo’s incremental evolution. Sleaford Mods may never deign to write a proper pop song, but as the motorik punk of “Seconds” demonstrates, Williamson has become evermore adept at harnessing his rangy rants into accessible chants. And tellingly, they opt to close with two Eton Alive outliers—the clarinet-squawked “OBCT” and damn-near-balladic “When You Come Up to Me”—that suggest a band on the cusp of a greater transformation. On All That Glue’s opening track, “McFlurry,” Williamson repeatedly declares, “I’ve got a Brit Award” with copious snark. But by the end of the record, the joke doesn’t seem so funny anymore.

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