(Even the threat of a bone-rubbing stroke won't make you stop: Sleaford Mods - by Daniel Boud)
Sydney Opera House, June 2.
TWO MEN IN SHORTS and t-shirts, set on dance and destruct.
One, bearded, is responsible for the sounds but now only has to trigger the computer, allowing him to dance, limbs going hither and yon, like he wandered into the party, found it to his liking and won’t be leaving til sun-up. His name is Andrew Fearn.
The other, non-bearded, begins by clutching the microphone and a drink (non-alcoholic) in one hand while the other ritually, almost independently flicks the side of his close-cropped head and ear. His name is Jason Williamson.
And he moves too, like a Melbourne Sharpie circa 1974, all elbows and pistoning knees, mated with Madness’ nutty dance, all square hips and shoulders, before he twirls his hands at his hips and throws back his shoulders in camp splendour.
“Oh yeah, not another white bloke aggro band” – uhuh, Sleaford Mods got in ahead of you. Except, no.
They dance. We dance. Dance to the steam punk machinery, the heavy press stamping out sheets of metal, the siren through a long deep pipe. Dance to the synth pop that might lean more often to gritty Sheffield than dandified London, but the difference isn’t so much when you’re sweating.
(Andrew Fearn addresses the sound. Picture by Daniel Boud)
Dance too to the sound of biker speed with beer chaser punctuated by Williamson’s barks and squawks, and Fearn revisiting Suicide’s death disco seductions somehow blended with John Barry cinematic grandeur.
Elsewhere in the torrent of narrow sounds you can hear the aggravation and provocation of Public Image and the hammer drill of Nine Inch Nails, the poking in the eye vertical dance of Amyl And The Sniffers and the horizontal interjections of Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad.
We don’t just dance, we laugh too. At the savagery directed at the shamelessly venal merchants of cash and the mockery of the earnestly houseproud (“death to your DIY”), at the distaste for the faux bumbling of “Boris Johnson and the cheeky girls” and sympathy for the real fumbling of the well intentioned.
(Don't look at me like that, like you think I'm some wine twat. Jason Williamson by Daniel Boud)
Williamson is witty and brutal and self-aware. And despite the appearance of someone to bovver (or who gets his gear for “Five pound sixty, past midnight/He could’ve charged me twice the price”),, he does respect and empathy just as well. It’s why women like Florence Shaw from Dry Cleaning, Amy Taylor from Amyl And The Sniffers and Billy Nomates all share the stage (via sampled voices) with them. As does Perry Farrell incidentally.
Or maybe they too want to dance “even when your heart hangs like a loose stool that won't drop/Even the threat of a bone rubbing stroke won't make you stop”. It makes sense when we’re all saying “I want it all like a crack forest gateau/I do drugs in my head so I can still go to bed/As I pound the slabs of this dreamscape into X.”
A version of this review was originally published by The Sydney Morning Herald.