A quick blog about the noise that is currently blasting out of my speakers.
Listening to English Tapas reminded me of an evening when I was, but a wee ‘un. A good friend of mine stopped by my bedsit (a room in a house that I shared with three quite amazing women). In his hands, he was clutching a grubby TDK C-90 cassette. “Get this on mate,” he said thrusting it into my hand. Now at the time, I listened to one artist. I’ll give you a clue, he wore his pants too high and is responsible for a massive album that’s title rhymes with schmiller. I wasn’t ready for what was on that tape.
I popped the tape into my Amstrad midi high-fi and pressed play. Both of us had never heard the likes of it in my life. A group of lads going by the moniker NWA was effin’ and jeffin’ like a bunch a bunch of Dockers. While Hip Hop and profanity have long since been a common pairing; like peas and carrots, Cannon and Ball and Tories and cruelty; at the time massive swears were not common place. I didn’t know whether or not to rinse myself with laughter or be totally shocked by it. Writing this now, it seems daft, but honestly back then these songs were radical and different. This was 1989.
For the rest of the 80s and up until the mid-nineties, hip-hop and me, well, we was mates. And the causes and social commentary that this music represented were something that I began to pay attention to. Eventually, the stuff I liked became sterile. Hip Hop became Hip Pop, and every other track on the radio had a rap in it. The issue became more about how much money each new artist had and less about the LAPD being a pack of bastards, gentrification, and urban decay. Every now and again something would pop up that was worthy – Wu-Tang Clan being a group that comes to mind. But nothing stung like those early, angry and brutal tracks.
So, what’s this trip down memory lane got to do with English Tapas? Well to be honest, when I first heard Sleaford Mods, it took me back to that evening in ’89. I had not heard anything like this in a long time. I don’t mean that they are like NWA, they are not like anyone, well, maybe there’s a touch of JCC in there. But, saying what they were saying – science with paired down beats. I didn’t know whether to laugh, I didn’t know if I had permission to be amused. You listen though, because the music demanded it. But unlike the East and West Coast prophets of the early 90s, the Sleaford Mods were talking about streets that I know, problems that I see, failings and shit that I put up with every day. As they would put it; Liveable Shit. They make clear the disappointment of a generation who have been let down badly by the ones who should be working for us. That generation is also being manipulated by tossers wearing purple who are smashing the nails of division into the structures of our lives.
English Tapas is their latest album. And guess what, there is not let up on the anger. Jason and Andrew (Sleaford Mods), have a right to be angry and disappointed, they were around like I was, when dance music was near enough religion. We had a culture – albeit a chemically adjusted one that had an altogether different outlook. There was genuine love in the clubs. The Tories had fucked off, and a new era began. Music, films, books and culture was abrasive but positive. There was a light and a future that fostered a belief that things could only get better.
Then a new century came, that night in ‘99 when the clock struck 12 – people just went mad. If the next ten years were going to be as good as the last six or seven then hey! Count us in. Then a couple of planes hit a pair of buildings. And the hope, the love, everything that promised something other than just the selfish pursuit of shit, went out the bleeding window. Things can only get better? My arse.
English Tapas is angry – it has a right to be. It should be. Some things need to be spelled out. I bought it early last week, and I’ll be listening to it for a long time to come. Because maybe what the Mods have been doing for the past ten years, will reflect what happened last time I discovered rage and electronic beats, perhaps if they can score a top tenner or this album makes good on its threat to thrust these lads into the country’s conscience entire, then things will change. And they may just get better.
If you have enjoyed this particular canister of mind gas, please consider sharing it – Karma and my badself will thank you for it. The buttons are on the right, cheers.