Sleaford Mods Break Down Their Retrospective Comp “All That Glue” Track by Track
The English electro-punk duo contextualize the twenty-two songs on their latest release.
Sleaford Mods have been channeling a nation’s worth of working class frustration through heavily cockneyed spoken-word, minimalist-electronic post-punk for thirteen years now, dropping an impressive ten albums, a handful of EPs, and countless singles along the way. In a short period of time, their discography has become incredibly daunting—good thing we now have All That Glue to help guide us through.
Doubling as a tidy retrospective of loose tracks, B-sides, and old favorites and an introductory sampler of the duo’s passively chaotic synth-punk, the new comp crams twenty-two songs into a relatively breezy seventy-two minutes. Chronicling Jason Williamson’s time recording under the moniker since being joined by keyboardist Andrew Fearn in 2012, Glue weaves in and out of the group’s familiar proper releases with LP-worthy tracks that slipped through the cracks, many of which haven’t found a proper home until now.
To help us get an idea of where each of these songs came from, Williamson took the time to contextualize them below—stream along to the comp as you read, and grab your copy of it via Rough Trade right here.
We were really coming together around the time of this track being written. Originally it was going to be included on a new EP me and Andrew had in mind, which was to follow up our first album together, Wank—but it was suggested to us by our then-manager that we fuse this and other new recordings together with the good bits on Wank and create a new album for his label, as he wanted to press it on vinyl. The rest is history. The album was called Austerity Dogs, and it started moving things for us. “McFlurry” discusses the rising hipster culture of the time, the drug trap, and also Boris Johnson, who was then mayor of London, the absolute cunt.
2. “Snake It”
This tune was very early on, if I remember—definitely part of the post-Austerity Dogs sessions. I mean, we were constantly recording. It didn’t matter to us what we’d just done, we just kept recording. Time has been good to all the ten unreleased tracks on this album. I used Andrew’s front door to get that looped sound in the chorus, and the whistle was a sample, I think. The song covers the hell of work, of work teams, and the nastiness that flows through the veins of us, the proletariat. We are truly the damned.
“The cunt with the gut and the Buzz Lightyear haircut.” This was employment rage at its finest. “Fizzy” was born out of a work situation where I got played by the boss, big time. It centers on my upmost to try and conduct the biggest personal takedown of a fucking boss ever, and it worked. Top that, anyone, I dare you. “Fizzy” ushered in the rant style of vocals we became renowned for in those early days, along with a clear indication that Andrew’s ability to conjure up the kind of loops I could only dream of. I sampled the doorbell in the chorus from the actual door at my work place where all the horror happened, so it totally married the song together.
4. “Rich List”
When David Cameron’s coalition government got into power at the end of the noughties, a dark, dark cloud formed over England. This cloud took in all those too weak to defend themselves and it ate them with a terror not seen since Margaret Thatcher’s merciless advance toward the working classes. “Rich List,” like many of the other early tunes, tried to convey this experience through various topics, and in this tune we looked at the media who were clearly in-line with the forming ideology of this neoliberal government. It was a fucking shitshow of unlawful austerity measures created in order to ease the financial damage the city had done. You know the story, I guess. The music was typical of early Andrew Fearn—distorted fat beats, litter bin type production.
The crème de la crème, some might argue. Our “Stairway to Heaven,” others may say. But when it was suggested to us that we rework an old idea called “Jobseeker,” an early Sleaford Mods song written before I met Andrew, both myself and Andrew were not that keen to do it. I hate going back to stuff I’ve done. Once it’s done, it’s done. But it does pay to listen to people sometimes, and in the case of reworking “Jobseeker,” this was one of those times. The new version brilliantly realized by Andrew with my vocals re-recorded through his knackered SM58 was pressed on 7-inch in Belgium by the KRAAK crew with a beautifully designed red cover featuring a not-so-sure Noel Gallagher, and limited to a hundred copies that also came with a free arm patch to sew on your jacket. It became a live favorite, and as mentioned above, quite possibly the best song we’ve written, or at least one of them. I love ’em all.
6. “Jolly Fucker”
“Jolly Fucker” was recorded in the summer of 2013, I think. It was a classic early scenario where Andrew would have the music and I would walk in and throw a page of lyrics from my phone onto it. Back then, my lyrics were custom made for rants or raps, so it was a really quick process. We did a really good video for this at The Chameleon Club where we cut our teeth. It’s a punk classic, really.
7. “Routine Dean”
Another balls-to-the-wall, claustrophobic punk classic. This was written around the same time as “Jolly Fucker” and “Jobseeker,” and again looks aggressively at the dirge of employment.
8. “Tied Up In Nottz”
Influenced by the dirty toilets in the now-closed yet beautiful Kogge Hotel in Hamburg. The lyrics were mainly written in Berlin and the music was conceived by an elated Andrew one night at his parents’ house just as we were starting to get somewhere. Good times. One of the best songs we have written.
9. “Big Dream”
“Big Dream” was a track from the Key Markets sessions that didn’t make it onto the final track listing. But it did make it onto the soundtrack for the film Bunch Of Kunst, and off the back of that we had to get it on this album. Time has been very good to this tune. It’s wicked.
10. “Blog Maggot”
This tune was written around the time of Divide and Exit, and although it was deemed not strong enough to be included on any future release at the time, it certainly has a lot of interesting aspects.
11. “Tweet Tweet Tweet”
This, in my opinion, is the ultimate austerity anthem for our times. Its conception in-line with the fascist offshoots (EDL, Britain First) from parties like UKIP helped litter the song’s content with such imagery whilst paying homage to an early-’80s style that featured in the likes of Fun Boy Three and its predecessors, The Specials.
12. “Tarantula Deadly Cargo”
Andrew had one of his many classic moments with this tune. He dived into his archive for a lot of the ideas from Key Markets and this was one of them. It took about an hour to record it alongside another unreleased track, “Rochester,” which appears further down. It talks about the weight of constant touring, farting in the car, drinking—the disorientation of it all.
13. “Fat Tax”
Another reject from the Key Markets sessions. “Fat Tax” discussed a heinous policy nearly realized by the Conservative Party regarding a potential “fat tax.” It also discusses the generic nature of a lot of DIY punk clubs. All graffiti and shit. It got a bit same/same as an experience.
14. “Slow One’s Bothered”
This was the original recording of what would eventually be “No One’s Bothered.” We did it about two hours one cold January night in 2015.
This was recorded on the same night we did “Fat Tax” and “Silly Me”—but like “Fat Tax,” it failed to make the final track listing. The song includes a singing Andrew, which I thought was really effective. It discusses my ongoing obsession with chronicling the ineffectiveness of life, its drab characteristics and gimmicks.
As mentioned earlier, “Rochester” was recorded back-to-back with “Tarantula Deadly Cargo.” The song depicts a town that destroys reactionary art under the guise of offensiveness, which happened to Banksy around the time. Also, the fascist narrative of “Asian rape gangs” and how this mindset has culled the many for the few.
Our early Rough Trade classic “TCR” ushered in our relationship with Rough Trade Records and gives one of our best ever songs. Recorded at Invada Studios in Bristol in April 2016. It’s a fucking tune. I recorded the guitar live with Andrew on the drums for the loop. He added this wicked organ sound and also that bass. Tune works to fuck.
18. “Reef of Grief”
Recorded at the same time as “TCR” but it didn’t make the final track listing for the T.C.R. EP. What a tune though. Classic SM punk, this is. Time has been very good to it, like all these unreleased numbers.
The golden nugget on English Tapas. Andrew squeezed this one out near the end of the sessions for that record and it took about two weeks to get a vocal sorted for it at home. Inspired by the actions of Philip Green and his associates in the selling off of BHS, the extraction of dividends, and the ravaged body of a company left for dead at a bad, bad cost to its ex-employees. Fuck that greedy cunt.
“Second” was recorded in January 2017 with six or seven other ideas. We kinda forgot about that session but Andrew came across it whilst digging for content for All That Glue. It’s another SM punk classic. An attack on the prevailing god of consumerism and my addiction to it. I love the N.E.R.D. style guitar thing in it, or whatever it is. Classic Andrew Fearn, this.
The gothic titan from the Eton Alive album. Listening back to this whole retrospective, it’s really nice to hear each album mature in its production, its sound. I immediately wrote the vocal for this when Andrew sent it through. It’s, well, goth to me. I had the idea to put a kazoo on it from very early on, but Andrew and the studio guy were not convinced at all. It worked though. That nice mixture of David and Goliath. It’s a fucking tune.
22. “When You Come Up to Me”
I got fixated with ’80s soul around the time of Eton Alive so as usual, toward the end of the sessions for that record, Andrew squeezed another classic out. It had that thing I was after, and to try and throw some of my inspiration from soul onto it wasn’t easy. I still don’t think it’s fully realized, but at the same time I do. It’s a tough one. You don’t wanna overstep the mark and that’s easy to do with soul. But this tune, well, it’s a really good mix up. It’s cool too—proper cool.