The 100 Club, beneath Oxford Street in London’s West End, is as close as British music gets to a heritage site. During World War Two, jazz bands played as German planes reduced the buildings above to rubble. In 1976, a two-day festival united the Pistols, the Clash, and Siouxsie And The Banshees on one stage. Tonight, Jason Williamson, vocalist for the Nottingham, U.K. duo Sleaford Mods sits in a graffitied dressing room sipping from a bottle of water. Tonight is the second night of a two-night residency, sold out months in advance, and Williamson — softly spoken, amusing, rather less intimidating than the twitchy knot of sweat and expletives that takes to the stage a couple of hours later — admits to stage fright. “Always, always,” he says. “I’d be worried if I wasn’t.”
The persona Williamson cuts onstage is not that of a man you imagine to by duly troubled by nerves. His spittle-flecked, free-associating rants about wage slavery, austerity politics, pop cultural ephemera and the awful things that humans do are equal parts raging and horribly funny, driven forth on the sparse bass-and-drum grooves clattering from the laptop of long-time collaborator Andrew Fearn. Nailing exactly what Sleaford Mods do is difficult — “punk poetry” feels broadly accurate, if falling somehow short. Perhaps their music is best understood as the forcible collision of apparently incompatible reference points: The Jam meets the Wu-Tang Clan, perhaps; or Pet Shop Boys crashed into Crass.