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‘If Sleaford Mods did not exist it would be necessary to invent them. A band that tackle contemporary English life on their own terms, tempering their righteous fury with eloquent street wit’
We know all this. Yet, cultural kudos is a very different matter to musical relevance and development. Listening to the first couple of songs on Eton Alive it sounded like the band strangled by their own narrow format. The lo-fi beats plus bass sound are standard fare, but Jason’s lyrics and delivery seemed less intense.
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 The opener Into The Payzone is the weakest tune on the album to my ears, a subdued rant on contactless credit culture punctuated by cash till bleeps. Kebab Spiders cranks up the rage, hilariously calling out ‘a TV Times Johnny Ramone’, but the flat beats and keys sound like an afterthought. Treading water…?

 
Thankfully, the next ten songs on this intriguing album disprove that thought entirely. Arrangements are far more adventurous, textures and beats have more light and shade, contrasting the metronomic drones of earlier releases and most shocking of all Jason sings!
 
This evolution is most apparent on Discourse Dif, a Tom-Tom Club style austerity disco banger and the closest Sleaford Mods have come to pop with a vocal melody cleverly mirrored by the bass during the chorus. Think of Genius Of Love with anger issues. However, alongside the arrangement Jason’s edge, eloquence and dryness are still shining through. The 1975 this isn’t… neat trick.
 
Firewall is a meditation on mental health and repressed emotions delivered melodically in an ironically chipper tone, with beats and keys recalling the Mods of a couple of years back. Big Burt even has a middle eight(!) and features the beautiful couplet;
‘I don’t want to know God’s plan is it £25 a month and free calls to the promised land?’
Negative Script with its drum n’ bass-style squelching low register keys is a meditation on reformed hedonism- ‘I don’t believe in fun’ made me chuckle!
 
Best of all Top It Up calls out macho culture in a twisted tale of getting wired at a funeral. Come on; we’ve all done it.
 
Lyrically, my highlight is Flipside
‘Graham Coxon looks like a left-wing Boris Johnson.’
Listening straight through in one sitting, Eaton Alive is a wonderful album that displays all the good stuff about the band, the raging energy, humour and unflinching eye on the failings of consumerism but delivers in the setting of more developed songs with a far broader musical palette than previously. In that sense, it is a resounding success. I must admit, the first couple of tracks gave me a fright…
 
From day one, Sleaford Mods had a strong and authentic identity, calling bullshit out vehemently and as such cannot fall into self-parody. In the words of their spiritual father Mark E. Smith, they’d become everything they used to hate. To move away from this comfort zone with integrity intact in the name of their evolution deserves absolute respect.’

In support of the release Sleaford Mods have also announced a 33-date tour of the UK.

All dates and ticket links cant be found here Sleaford Mods Tour.

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Barry Sutton

 

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