Divide And Exit by Sleaford Mods is the follow-up to their breakthrough compilation album, Austerity Dogs. I think it’s fair to say that the Nottingham duo of Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearns, mixing beats, samples with sharp, witty lyrics and punk delivery have come up with a bit of classic. Includes the single, Tiswas.
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Regular customers of Norman Records will know all about Sleaford Mods already. Due in no small part to a tireless work ethic (kudos to band and label!) large swathes of the UK and beyond now seem to be catching on, to the point where 'Divide And Exit' feels really quite zeitgeist-y. "Must-listen" reviews in the Guardian? That's quite some leap for this grimy Midlands crew who, as their frontman put it recently, were playing to two dogs and an ashtray not so long ago.
So how does 'Divide And Exit' compare to last year's dirty-but-utterly-thrilling compilation album, 'Austerity Dogs'? Fresh from their triumphant recent Leeds gig, my immediate response when I first heard 'Divide And Exit' was a bit muted. Maybe because the gig had been such a kick-ass, ferocious and enjoyable affair the album felt a bit...tame. How very wrong I was. Not for the first time, my initial impressions of a Sleaford Mods experience were proven to be bollocks.
There's no 'shock of the new' type thing to kick proceedings off here (recalling the epic "People, places, parties" opening lines to 'Austerity Dogs'). Instead, opener 'Air Conditioning' does the near-unthinkable and plunges Jason's distorted vocals down in the mix, rendering them almost unintelligible at points. The effect is twofold. First, it makes the listener work quite a lot harder - a sense of challenge that is sustained throughout. It's almost like the Mods have gone a little bit IDS on us: the lyrical food bank certainly isn't closed, but there's to be no easy ride through a bunch of shout-a-long lines this time. A smart move for all kinds of reasons.
Second, and even more importantly, it has the effect of foregrounding the step up in the, ahem, production values of the Mods sound. 'Divide And Exit' takes Andrew Fearns's routinely excellent, rumbling backdrop and makes it an equal partner to Williamson's barbed poetry. It's hard to put into words why this matters, why it has such a drastic impact on the album as a whole, but it does. One shudders to say the word 'maturity' because of the horrible implications that word has accrued over years of muso abuse, but there is a sense of confidence here - a sense that the man with the laptop is delivering the 'fuck you' just as much as the man with the gob. Again, a smart move.
Essentially, with 'Divide And Exit' Sleaford Mods have done what many thought they couldn't: they have progressed their sound without losing an iota of their of-the-moment punk brutality, the thing that makes them so special. I absolutely loved 'Austerity Dogs' but found myself agreeing with the sage voices around me who wondered, justifiably, if their next outing could stand up to the increased expectations and exposure. But this band just keeps getting better.
10/10 Mark 2nd August 2014
I walked down to my local train station to catch the train to work. Like everyday. But today something was different. Someone had spray painted a picture of a massive disembodied cock on the fence opposite. They had drawn it right on the main road. It was unmissable. 100's of cars would drive past it and everyone would see it. EVERYONE. A big fat glaring cock.
A couple of emotions struck me at the sight of it. Firstly I found it fuckin hilarious. A picture of a well placed cock is always funny. I first found it funny at the age of about 11, and have found it funny every since. It's the joke that never gets old or tired. Secondly I found it repulsive. It is after all a picture of a cock and regardless of how crude that drawing is, there is something intrinsically dirty about it. Thirdly I was offended by it. Not that I am prudish in anyway, but it is by it's very nature an offensive piece of graffiti. If I didn't find it offensive then it wouldn't be fulfilling it's goal.. and finally, the last thing I noticed was just how much of a massive 'Fuck you' it was to everyone.
As fate would have it I happened to be listening to the Sleaford Mods album 'Divide and Exit' at the time of discovering this new addition to where I live. It occurred to me that what The Mods have done with this album (and Austerity Dogs) is go out and draw a massive cock over the music industry. Over the whole fuckin country. A funny, repulsive, offensive fuck you to everyone and everything cock with a hairy ball bag and bits of spunk squirting out the top.
Even watching them perform live is a massive fuck you, Andrew Fearn stretching only to pressing play on his laptop while Jason Williamson rants like a nutter into the mic. It's like they are pinning you down and drawing a cock on your forehead.. but instead of crying and kicking them off you're laughing and screaming for more.
There is of course something stupid, senseless and easy to someone drawing a massive cock on a fence that 100's of people will see. Anyone could do it. There will be people that say that about Sleaford Mods. But not everyone does it. Because it takes someone with a spike in their gut and fire in their eyes to do it. And not all of us have that. Sleaford Mods do. They have bucketfuls of it.
Jason Williamson's lyrics are immense. He hits the nail on the head so many times you start to feel sorry for the poor thing. He says more in a sentence than most bands achieve in an entire career, and he splatters it all with toilet humor, pop culture, social commentary, political commentary and just a load of swearing and irrelevant shit he says for the sake of it - all delivered in an angry stream of consciousness patter. In short... he fuckin means it.
He could the UKs answer to DOOM.. and I do not say that lightly.
Buy this fuckin album. Draw a cock on your own head before they do it to you.
8/10 Grantham Rockers 7th May 2014
Credit where its due, these lads have got the wind behind 'em at the moment. I prefer their earlier, grottier stuff personally but can see that their progression from sometimes-really-quite-dumb laddism (ever heard Trixie?) to (faux?) political austerity-era commentary suitable for the Guardian-reading (faux?) intelligentsia was a smart idea and bound to go down a storm. That might sound like a double edged compliment, and maybe it is a bit. But I am genuinely pleased to see a splash of real punk attitude back on the agenda. Most of all this is a fucking good album.
10/10 Lee 4th May 2014
Gawd, the hype around these boys is getting massive ain't it? Just clocked Stewart Lee's review in the Sunday Times of all places. Bit fucking surreal but I reckon his "massive by Christmas" line will prove accurate. Couldn't wait for the LP so banged a tenner into iTunes (will be back I promise) a few days ago and have been playing it ever since. Housemates wanted to kill me at first but they're all coming round to it. Some tastes are acquired more slowly. Don't miss out.
10/10 Jamie And His Magic Knob 3rd May 2014
Look guys, I'm sorry - but I couldn't wait. I grabbed a copy of this from a source that shall remain unnamed and whilst it feels a bit like betrayal I'm glad I did. The hype is right. Sleaford Mods are the most vital force in British music for a very long time. They've benefitted from some great timing (the return of Tory rule through, the vapid celebration of Britpop's 20th anniversary) to the point that everything about this band just screams NOW. People: buy this record, then buy the other one, and then sit back and let Jason and Andrew school you in what modern Britain is really about: shit all.
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- Divide And Exit by Sleaford Mods
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