“It’s the irascible British duo’s most varied album to date… just don’t expect anything to change”; “business as usual with added vitriol.”
Sleaford Mods received some of the strongest reviews to date for this year’s UK Grim, but as the above critiques noted, the album presented listeners with more of the same; it’s their 12th release after all.
To say it’s “business as usual” isn’t an insult, it’s just that the post-punk duo – inimitable vocalist Jason Williamson and underrated beatmaker Andrew Fearn – are operating at a remarkably consistent level on every album.
It’s also not a technically true statement, either, because things certainly have changed for Sleaford Mods in 2023: UK Grim became their highest-charting album yet, reaching number three in the UK (proof that the people are strongly responding to their tales of woe in the country), while they’re also playing to larger crowds on a regular basis.
In Auckland, they had to add a second show at Powerstation to satisfy demand (it’s not just the UK masses connecting to their political anthems), and their sold-out debut at the venue in 2019 was clearly still fresh in the mind of many in New Zealand.
On the first of those Auckland dates on Friday night, Sleaford Mods put on a seamless and endlessly energetic show, Williamson and Fearn appearing so comfortable onstage.
There’s a reason the former is one of the most memorable post-punk performers of this era: never mind “dad dancing”, Williamson’s movement at times resembled a cheery ostrich. It is, if that comparison didn’t make clear, quite charming. At other moments, he struck his best “Vogue” pose for each corner of the crowd, twirling his hands and gleefully grinning.
Behind him, Fearn put on his increasingly impressive beats and proceeded to flail his arms and legs ecstatically, the pair revelling in Auckland’s appreciation.
Plenty of UK Grim was performed, as were thrilling cuts from their 2021 album Spare Ribs, “Nudge It” and “Mork n Mindy”, with the only thing lacking being the presence of collaborators Amyl and the Sniffers‘ Amy Taylor and English punk Billy Nomates.
Sleaford Mods’ songs remain visceral and political engaged – “business as usual” – but they are also increasingly danceable thanks to Fearn’s work, and the Auckland crowd – always prone to slight reserve – eventually got involved, joining in with the onstage duo’s shenanigans. The times they are unprecedented, the political landscape is depressingly turbulent, but Sleaford Mods know that we can seek a little comfort in cutting fucking loose.
After playing at Powerstation once more tonight, Sleaford Mods head to Wellington on Sunday, followed by a run of shows in Australia. Tickets to their New Zealand shows are still available here.
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