Sleaford Mods’ “Eton Alive”: Hellishly Moreish and Delightfully Insane

Sleaford Mods - Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearne in 2017. Photo by Chris Lever/REX/Shutterstock (8552996c)

An anonymous YouTube reviewer once described listening to Sleaford Mods as an experience akin to the first beer you drink after a lobotomy. It’s hard to think of a more apt description for the band’s latest album, Eton Alive.

The track’s opener mixes enough genres for us to give up putting it into a box. Vocalist Jason Willamson sings/yells with all the angst and raspiness of a ’70s punk band. Paired up with Andrew Fearn’s techno beats and jarring electronica, what you have is something equally unpleasant as it is satisfying. Listening through the album is something like having a niggling tooth ache which you can’t stop poking at. It hurts but in an irresitable way.

The second track and single “Kebab Spider” is addictive. “You’re just saying it all to look good” Williamson drones four times in the pre-chorus. Trying to analyse the lyrics is like being singled out by the band and mocked. On one hand, it seems to be making a point about punk and popular culture but the lyrics “Spiders crawl out of your donner’s crown” are repeated three times in the final verse and it starts to seem like Sleaford Mods really did just write a song about a kebab with a spider in.

“Policy Cream” is similar but “O.B.C.T” sounds like a post-punk anthem. The thundering bass and poppy drumbeats give the track a sound that’s closer to The Cure than The Prodigy. If it wasn’t for Willamson’s extraordinarily identifiable vocals, there would be no way of knowing that the track came from the same two people who produced “Kebab Spider” just two tracks earlier.

And then “When You Came To Me” shifts the style all over again. We are not just being yelled at in a dinghy rave anymore, we are being given something that could potentially be described as actual music. By “Flipside” we are being dragged backwards through the rave again and it feels like we’ve just hit our heads really hard.

Reviewing Sleaford Mods is inevitably a challenge as each track on Eton Alive is a surprise and not always a pleasant one. The experience of listening is definitely unique but as far as listening on the bus goes, it’s more likely to induce a panic attack than an enjoyable listening experience.

Still, whatever Marmite wizardry Sleaford Mods have delivered, they have done it exceptionally well, even if we do sort of hate it (but not really).