When I was a kid, Key Markets’ car park was the venue for all sorts of dark dealings and (as AC/DC would put it) dirty deeds done dirt cheap, whether real or imagined. If there was a story going round school that someone had been stabbed, overdosed on smack (which was a hot topic in the classrooms and corridors due to that Zammo off Grange Hill) or been arrested for sniffing glue, it was almost certain to have happened “in Key Markets car park”.Now, I’m not sure if this was to do with its location near the most violent pub in town, or something intrinsic to the franchise, but learning that Sleaford Mods have named their new album after that very supermarket chain doesn’t half make me wonder… “It’s gonna drag you down to Key Markets and shoot you all in the car park”, spits Jason Williamson on “Arabia”. So maybe there’s something to it… Key Markets the album continues the Mods’ foul-mouthed crusade against the world. I’m listening to it in the aftermath of a Tory budget which has managed to defang the strengthening movement for a living wage by redefining the phrase “living wage” itself (which is a clever cunt’s trick, but still a cunt’s trick). Of course there’s been an election since this album was recorded, but references to Nick Clegg and Ed Milliband have been smartly future-proofed with the disclaimer “Years from now, who’s that tit? It doesn’t matter who that tit is”. Same shit, different names.
If you’re expecting any major changes to the tried and tested Suicide/Pet Shop Boys formula, you’ve come to the wrong place. The rest of us can be relieved that this isn’t where Sleaford Mods decide to break out a symphony orchestra. Andrew Fearn‘s still laying down the lo-fi dance-punk beats and Jason’s still rapping, singing and spitting his rhymes above, through and behind them. Focusing on the swearing’s always fun, of course, because swearing’s essentially ace, but to do so ignores the really rather important fact that they’re a fucking great band.
Listen a bit closer to those rhythm tracks, and there’s a lot going on, a fair bit of it surprisingly fucking subtle. And Jason’s inventiveness with language and rhythm sometimes seems to land him in that weird and probably-never-before-really-thought-of grey area between Chuck Pahlaniuk and Ghostface Killah, two names you don’t tend to see together that often. Trying to avoid all the obvious and lazy comparisons this time, I’ll also chuck in JG Ballard while we’re here, though that maybe has as much to do with the fact that real life has become increasingly Ballardian in recent years; and for all their abstractions about aliens and bad television, real life is what Sleaford Mods mostly concern themselves with. Which is why, oddly, Jason seems to have become something of a go-to guest on BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight. (Well, I think I’ve heard him twice. That’s “regular”, isn’t it?) Oh, and let’s add Radical Dance Faction to the mix as well, at least on “Silly Me”.
And of course the pop culture references fly thick and fast. Even Darcy de Farcy (often mentioned, but never seen, on the Roland Rat TV programmes many years ago) gets a name-check. As does, amazingly, Snake Plissken. Don’t worry, you’ll miss a lot of stuff the first time through. Also second, third and fourth. But like great poetry, or Half Man Half Biscuit lyrics, or a good hip-hop album, it’s so dense with information that repeated listenings offer fresh rewards.Mind you, nothing I can say will make this record sound any more amazing than the Daily Mail‘s pre-Glastonbury outrage piece on a line about knocking Boris Johnson off his bike already has — with publicity like that, Key Markets should do very well indeed. Let’s just hope enough people listen further than the obvious gags and swears. But hey, even if they don’t, those are good too. So it’s kind of a win/win for the Mods.
I’ll see you in the car park.