Love them or hate them, Sleaford Mods are now constantly on radio playlists. When they came to The Kazimier earlier this year, tickets sold out fast, and many are still rueing that they missed it. Now I'm writing from a perspective of someone that isn’t a Sleaford Mods fan, and I’m still going to tell you that you need to see Sleaford Mods: Invisible Britain.
Ask any Mods fan why they love Andrew Robert Lindsay Fearn's minimal backbeats and the volatile vocals of Jason Williamson, and they will tell you this; “There’s not a band in Britain today saying what they’re saying,’ and they’re right. Whilst other breakthrough bands like Royal Blood and Drenge are writing love songs and messing about with your mates, the Mods are writing about government cuts, withheld benefits and working class life. So it’s poignant that Sleaford Mods: Invisible Britain, that has all the tropes of a band documentary, describing their formation and influences, also gives you several short stories about neglected British communities that you may not have heard of before. It’s because of these stories that the film is so worthwhile, and even if you are not a fan, you’ll walk away with a newly garnered respect for Sleaford Mods.
The smell and taste of lager and sweat can almost be experienced through the screen during the gig footage at venues like Liverpool’s Kazimier. It’s raw, virile and exciting, with vocalist Jason Williamson spitting, raging and strutting at hungry crowds that know every lyric and spit right back. The live footage is then interlinked with in-depth, personal stories, featuring community cafés, disabled rights campaigners and miners charities to name a few. In Liverpool’s case, the filmmakers Nathan Hannawin and Paul Sng interview local screenwriter, Jimmy McGovern, and the JENGbA activists who are demonstrating against a law that allows the murder charge to be connected to all gang members involved in a murder.
The prominence of the intertwined social stories lead me to believe that the directors wanted to make a film about austerity Britain before Sleaford Mods had even got involved. The help of the Mods’ name was perhaps the way they were able to get the film funded, as otherwise this important film that gives a voice to people that aren’t normally heard may not have made it to national screens. I don’t think this theory takes anything away from the film - in fact, it gives the band and film a significantly humble vibe that is not often the case in rock and roll documentaries and puts the Mods’ music even more in the hands of the people they are writing about. Even the talking heads they have in the film are not celebrities or critics (save for McGovern); they are real people in the referred to communities, or fans of the band.
In relation to the amazing array of music documentaries that have been released this year, like Montage of Heck and Amy, Sleaford Mods: Invisible Britain shares almost nothing in common other than it being one of the best documentaries of the year. It doesn’t glorify the subjects; instead it tries to put them on an equal footing with their fans and the real people that their music describes, whilst still giving a clear insight into who they are. More music documentaries should take note and follow this path.
Love the Mods? Don't miss Sleaford Mods: Invisible Britain this Sunday at FACT. See what else is on as part of Doc 'n Roll Fest here.