When I first heard Mr. Jolly Fucker by Sleaford Mods I felt compelled to seek out more, so startled was I by the sound - so basic, so exciting, and so face-punchingly angry. Within a couple of hours of poking around on YouTube, I knew I needed to get my hands on every last squeak and fart ever recorded by this group. It was therefore a bit disappointing to realise they - or he if you insist - had already pooped out at least four albums of material that I would probably never get to hear, despite this being the age of everything that ever existed becoming available once again. I used to be so good at this sort of thing, knowing what was out there and what was what, as a stack of early Foetus singles and Unkommuniti tapes are my witness.
Retweeted, collecting the best of that early stuff, was therefore well worth the wait, and well worth the additional wait of my having to buy an amplifier and record player so I could play the thing.
I can sort of see why the band - now that there's definitely two of them - seem to have drawn a line between this - mostly Jason Williamson and others - and Austerity Dogs onwards with Andrew Fearne pushing the buttons. It's hard to tell quite what the difference is, but there definitely is one. I never quite got those Wu-Tang references mixed up with all the other efforts of everyone scrabbling to describe the band - Crass meets John Cooper Clarke, Roy Castle fronting the Fall, Swans covering Splodgenessabounds... but anyway, I can see it here, or at least I can see Sleaford Mods as more or less an English Mobb Deep - as has been mentioned in some interview or other. Even without the occasional NWA reference or Illmatic sample, it's that same sensation of taking a piss in an alley behind the kebab shop and it's raining, and you're stood in a puddle with shit shoes and wet feet...
Where the hell was I?
Much of Retweeted sounds even angrier than the recent material, at least to me, although it could be the punk rock samples, loops from various Pistols and Alternative TV records evoking certain associations with punch-ups and a surfeit of crap lager. The slightly annoying thing is that I realise I was trying to do this myself a few years ago, right down to looping Pretty Vacant in an attempt to spin my own yappy yarns of minimum wage misery with some sort of local underpinning; but not too annoying, given that the stuff on this record does it about twenty times better than I ever managed, and without trying quite so hard; and in case it needs stating, the lyrics were brilliant even back then, terrible, hilarious, and strong enough to strip the paint off most walls. The more I listen to Sleaford Mods, the more I notice how bad so much music has been for at least the last couple of decades. I suppose, if you want to get snippy, this is just some fat old codger praising music which kindly references Ronnie Biggs' Biggest Blow and other crap left laying around by my generation, and I should probably be listening to Skrillex or Neutral Milk Hotel or fucking Ha Ha Tonka - which really is the name of some band; but bollocks - simply being an old cunt with a long memory doesn't necessarily render one's experience any less valid or even vital than that of a twenty-year old told to wait another two decades before forming an opinion. So maybe this is old people's music because teenagers spend their money on ringtones of autotuned Pokémon themes rather than Sleaford Mods, but so what, and does it really matter?
Jason Williamson's sleeve notes state that he isn't particularly proud of these old tracks, which I can sort of understand, although he probably should be, not least once you consider the competition. Retweeted remains a genuine racket, a real joyful noise, and it does what music was always supposed to do, and which not much of it has been doing for a while.