By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Delivering a mix of propulsive, minimalist beats and vitriolic diatribes about British working-class life, rising duo Sleaford Mods bring their first North American tour ever to Slim’s Friday night.
The Nottingham-based group initially started in 2006 with frustrated musician Jason Williamson looking for a new direction after spending years pursuing a career as a singer-songwriter. After a friend suggested delivering vocals over an instrumental beat by drum-and-bass producer/DJ Roni Size, Williamson started making punkish hip-hop drawing inspiration from the chaotic sounds of early Wu-Tang Clan and his long abiding love for the revival of ’60s mod culture spurred by the Jam during the punk era.
Initially collaborating with Simon Parfrement, early Sleaford Mods recordings found Williamson spitting his heavily accented, expletive-filled rhymes about hard drinking and hard living in austerity-era England over beats that sampled from ’60s soul, British blues-rock bands like the Yardbirds and the Who as well as classic UK punk. The group would garner attention with a string of independent albums, but since the band’s commercial potential was restricted by the music it was sampling without clearance, Sleaford Mods would shift it’s sound starting in 2012.
That was when Parfrement was replaced by DJ and producer Andrew Fearn, who brought a his own rough-hewn original beats to the duo that touched on the spare, kinetic sounds of krautrock and British post-punk outfit the Fall (Williamson’s stream-of-consciousness delivery has been compared to that of the Fall’s founder and leader Mark E. Smith). The band maintained its prolific output, earning more critical acclaim with its albums Austerity Dogs in 2013 and Divide and Exit the following year.
The duo’s raised profile would lead to some big name collaborations, guesting on the song “Ibiza” for rave rockers the Prodigy’s 2015 album The Day Is My Enemy with as well as the electro hit “Head and Shoulders” with UK club mavens Leftfield. The same year, the band made its debut performance at Glastonbury and other British and European festivals.
Sleaford Mods have continued to produce new music at an impressive rate, issuing the concert recording Live at SO36 and the EP T.C.R. last year and following those releases up with the brand new album English Tapas for the noted London-based Rough Trade imprint. Boasting some of the pair’s most accessible songs yet like the percolating groovers “B.H.S.” and “Moptop,” the release has led the band to launch it’s first ever North American tour that stops at Slim’s Friday night.
For that show, the duo will be joined by iconic SF punk band the Avengers. Though they only put out a single 3-song EP before splitting up in 1979, the quartet led by singer Penelope Houston and guitarist Greg Ingraham opened for the Sex Pistols at their infamous San Francisco concert just before imploding and recorded with Pistols guitarist Steve Jones. In 1999, the band briefly reformed around Houston (who had enjoyed a fruitful career as a folk singer) and Ingraham before reuniting permanently in 2004.
Sleaford Mods with the Avengers
Friday, April 7, 9 p.m. $16-$21