The Men Who Fell From North: ‘Bunch of Kunst’, the Sleaford Mods Movie
“Sonic Youth fan? MBV? If you like feedback that much get a job at the Council .” ‘14 Day Court‘ Sleaford Mods
“And then? ‘British we are, British we stay.’ How long can one hang on in Gibraltar, with the tapestries, where mustached riders with scimitars hunt tigers, the ivory balls one inside the other, bare seams showing, the long tearoom with mirrors on both sides and the tired fuschia and rubber plants, the shops selling English marmalade and Fortnum and Mason’s tea…clinging to their Rock like the apes, clinging always to less and less. In Tangier, the Parade Bar is closed. Shadows are falling on the Mountain. ‘Hurry up, please. It’s time.'” – the final passage from ‘The Western Lands‘ by William S Burroughs
“Ai! ai! we do worse! We are in a fix!” – Allen Ginsberg, ‘Kaddish‘
Hands up: The first time I heard the name Sleaford Mods I thought, Just what this modern world needs: another Jam tribute band. I didn’t listen to them for ages. But on impact, my initial impression was not contradicted so much as deconstructed: This is The Jam, and for that matter, any other destroyingly vital early British punk bands – the Pistols’ parallels alone constitute a thesis-in-waiting – but by other, modern means necessary.
More than anything else, though, the sound of Sleaford Mods, one long sonic slur, conjures for me a holy moshed alliance of NYC electronic punk pioneers Suicide, and sensational, scatological UK Seventies comedy duo Derek and Clive – aliases of actors Dudley Moore and late Peter Cook – who spent wee hours soused in various London studios recording reams of stream of near-unconsciousness ranting as searing in its satire as some of Sleaford frontman and former benefits adviser Jason Williamson’s shouting is today. Sharing with debut Suicide’s a penchant for startling technological primitiveness, Sleaford sound visionary Andrew Fearn creates a demi-monde underworld of hiccupping, glitching but nearly pop-coherent backing for his partner’s deceptively undisciplined outpourings. But this is not just honky “rap”. No, these Mods deserve a new genre all to themselves. “Crap”: a sonic excrescence, a listing, sinking Titanic, as defiant as it is somehow doomed, fists on the doors, kicking against the backstablishment.
Beyond The Smoke, Sleaford Mods speak for a country perennially under the cosh, with the “guttersnipe” “Garageland ” eloquence of early Clash, another band Nottingham’s Dystopian Duo call to mind.
Strummer was the British Springsteen, an Orwell rather than Guthrie, expressly middle-class, but with a heart of ideological gold. The politics, the passion: when Citizen Joe bellows “This is Joe Public speaking!” he owns and absorbs a micro-century of tradition. Sleaford Mods frontman Jason Williamson is that Joe Public but with another four decades of degenerated protest bolted on, stripped of class rank, and informed by the assault on the crashing Poundlanding proletariat by Polly Pot and her Khmer Bleu cadres. And with a Northern nous back-compatible with other great Northern voices, not least that of Mark E. Smith. Plus, significantly, Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, whose twitching stage idiosyncracies Williamson’s own afflicted spasms recall. In a very real sense Williamson is the bastard son of Smith and Curtis both, a voice worthy to vent the spleen of a nation, but especially its landlocked, heartbroken non-Shires, splattered and splayed across the landscape like the post-pub vomit puddles and creased carrier bags populating its streets. Updated Smiths, too: Sometimes life must be the lonely life that is Tory.
Rage With The Drum Machine
Sleaford Mods share with the most caustic Clash (and for that matter, Suicide) a strange combination of incendiary calculation and brute musical force. Not only do Sleaford’s lead singer Jason Williamson and Strummer sound perennially at the mercy of virulent tonsillitis; their bands both sound gritty, frenzied, produced in a wheelie bin filled with broken glass, trebly, squalling, sometimes amateurish yet simultaneously instantly accomplished and imperious; their very British, join-this-queue dispatch of one instant classic after another breathtaking. “Jobseeker“, like “Garageland”, is an anthem. And almost a service in the religious sense. Sacred, yeah. Like emotional, numinous Ginsberg and the Beat Burroughs’ control smashing. All the great words, pointing beyond words. Falling apart from the start: “Who killed Bambuuuh???”
The Men Who Fell From North
Through “Bunch of Kunst” – shown at Cinema and Co. this week – Sleaford Mods careening, cod-careering 2015-16 ride – with Williamson’s leitmotif yelps, growls and sneers as standard – is captured with a predictable, apt auteur flourish by Christine Franz. What you don’t see and hear coming is a subtext rich in poignancy. Covering the two year culmination of seven years of struggle to be more than sophomore freak sideshow fodder, “Bunch of Kunst” finds Williamson and Fearn very much the working class zeroes-to-heroes they appear, literally and figuratively simultaneously out of the depths they plumb, with a ground up worm’s eye view of a Britain growing more little every day, but with a feral intelligence and insight elevating what might otherwise be mere novelty to a form of culturally actualised genius.
A few fragments of their home lives provide passing context, but the meat and potatoes is in the fleeting glimpses of the Mods’ studio and live action, the former as comical and cranky as all studio work, the latter towering evidence that all you need is loud: Fearn’s tracks are visceral, a rattling, always antediluvian “new” British Rail crate careening on an endless siding to nowhere, Williamson providing the semi-intelligible announcements laced with the lurking sarcasm of a lifer union slave.
“History repeats like BBC2.” – “The Corgi”
The fulsome participation of the Mods’ manager Steve Underwood, is a bonus, matching in articulation, acuity, and bemusement his wards’ observations of their unlikely, timely, almost vengeful rise to dominance over an otherwise mostly mediocre “music scene” they have little interest in. The moment when Underwood watches the band’s first TV appearance, on BBC Artsnight, is touching and salutary, as pretty presenter Maxine Peake breaks it gently to viewers at home that the singer may seem, at times, a trifle sweary. Follow that trajectory: Nottswhere to celebrity endorsement from The Godfather of Punk, Iggy Pop, whose “Raw Power” begins with a big burp carried down the years of punk, passed from potty mouth to potty mouth, until emitted opening the Mods’ “A Little Ditty“.
“Bunch of Kunst” is, in a way, the ultimate family film of the season, the entire nation it’s belching, lurching family, forever squabbling, fearlessly loving. In Sleaford Mods, Britain meets its national measure as much as treasure, a front room row with its own fate that shows no sign of letting up anytime soon. In the sale of the soul, everything must go, and Britain in setting the price of its own at least now has two auctioneers whose audacity is up to the job. “Bunch of Kunst” or any other documentary, can never do these Morlock Mods justice, but it has a go with bravado and all the affection its subjects deserve.
Following Nottingham punk duo SLEAFORD MODS on their two-year journey from bedroom recording sessions to chart success, Christine Franz’s official documentary feature tells the story of three guys taking on the music business on their own terms. IN CINEMAS ONLY – FROM APRIL 21 For details of cinema screenings, go to http://www.bunchofkunst.com/screenings
Official ‘Bunch of Kunst’ Film Trailer
Jeremy Gluck primarily focuses on capturing a snapshot of human consciousness through the utilisation of digital meme.He seeks to explore the traditional hierarchy of how art is perceived. His most recent work reflects the powerful dichotomy,which exists between the narcissism of the digital age and the need for a stark commentary on the post-millennial landscape.Through the utilisation of a raw typography and a monochromatic palette, Gluck invites the audience to consume less and engage more, therefore negating the idea of art having a literal presence.
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