An away-day to Derby to see one of the most talked about acts of the last 24 months and take in a city on the Invisible Britain tour the Mods are currently taking to produce a DVD that promises to be something of a State Of The Nation address. The premise is therefore they are playing places likely to be most hit by austerity measures etc.
Derby has some great stuff (small but excellent gallery/museum and currently multi venue photo art trail, a Cathedral with its own peregrine falcon) and despite the first thing we see being a poster in the multi-story warning people not to touch the walls and banisters in case of needles the side of Derby we see first (in the Cathedral quarter) is rather upmarket. Once past that poverty is more visible and as its St Patricks there is a very large police presence for a pretty small city. That said we experience no problems and many friendly and helpful people. The venue is proper rock scuzz in the bar but the gig room, when it opens, is big and well set out.
Grey Hairs are made up of members of various bands I don’t know and are a growling Alt/Punk in the Jesus Lizard vein, with an ability to actually include tunes in with the volume. They are not afraid to cover Nilssons’ tuneful but incredible loud cut Jump In The Fire which always amazed me with it’s Pop brutality. I’m glad we saw them.
The meat in the sandwich tonight is from the mysterious space warlords Evil Blizzard. Kraut beats from 4 (on a quiet night) bassists and a singing drummer controlling from the back like a funky Mekon. Musically Hawkwind is a helpful if dull signpost, at least the distillation of the Hawkwind rhythm sound – Brainstorm chopped and fucked in an exciting variety of ways. Visually they are what Slipknot might be if they came from Preston rather than Iowa. A selection of masks that, with the possible exception of butcher’s knife wielding mascot Blizzpig, are more drunken Halloween at the working men’s club than Hollywood horror to hide their faces. Though not very seriously -as a casual trip to Facebook will show this is hardly pre 80s Kiss level identity security. The leather and cerise outfits are rather lovely too but the fact is without the amusing trappings they are a cracking left field rock band, who playfully batter you into submission. It is frankly just easier to join them than to beat them and they go down a storm. Certainly I was eager to see Sleaford Mods but Blizzard tipped it into essential gig material. I’ve seen them twice and everyone one should at least once.
While the noise they produce may make you doubt it Sleaford Mods are the classic electro duo (Sparks, Soft Cell, Suicide et al) two blokes – one standing there starting beats on a laptop, otherwise static, the other one a ball of frustration, tic-ing as he jabs out verbal riffs. It’s often funny because sometimes laughter stops tears but its deadpan as fuck, Pinter Punk. The songs are a stream of invective, their art is there to throw into relief the idiocy of much of modern day life, especially if you are at the sharp end of it, rather than offer solutions. They are NOT fucking politicians. More good cop/fucking angry cop – the stage could as well be a three sided room we look into with a light shining in the eyes of stupidity while Williamson uses his verbal cosh to extract an apology from the elite. Even though it’s the very last thing he’d ever get or expect.
Their real skill is a knack for writing songs that instantly become part of the framework of dissent, polemic laser guided punk hip-hop that makes a virtue out of it’s very crudeness. Williamson’s never likely to run out of targets – twats in clubs, twats in Job Centers, twats on the news… twats. Let’s be honest there’s a lot of twats out there. If you don’t feel as angry as him you don’t leave the house very often.
The Mods are likely to be reviled in some quarters because they say what most of us feel – work is not a universally noble endeavour. Most of us work to pay for the fun things that make us happy – be it drugs, TV or a camping holiday in Wales – we do not regard ourselves as being fantastically lucky to do it. If you love your job AND think it is worthwhile (and it pays sufficient to live on AND have some fun) then that’s great. It may even be what SM are now experiencing. But working for a pittance in a soul destroying “existing exercise” isn’t something to thank your lucky stars for. And – as in the kidney punch of their, arguably, greatest track Jobseeker – contempt rather than gratitude is all you can feel sometimes. It’s not about celebrating laziness it’s about feeling the poorest deserve as much basic validation as the middle class or the rich. I’m middle class, hands up to it, but I worked in a dry cleaners for years, I’ve literally seen the shit the rich want clearing up without a hint of embarrassment. And I felt a great, cathartic pleasure in yelling “Jobseeker” – and for that matter “Fizzy” or “Tiswas” – full of Guinness on a Tuesday in Derby.