Bunch of Kunst

Review by Eve Watling

Directed by

Christine Franz

Starring

Andrew Fearn Sleaford Mods Steve Underwood

Anticipation.

A music journalist-turned-director follows “Britain’s angriest band” on their rise to the top.

Enjoyment.

It’s impossible not to root for these unexpected rock stars.

In Retrospect.

As much about transcending “Broken Britain” as it is about finding musical success.

This doc about bile-spilling anarcho-rockers Sleaford Mods is also an encapsulation of working class malaise.

“It is a band that on paper shouldn’t really appeal to people,” says Sleaford Mods manager Steve Underwood, driving around the grey, rain-drenched streets of Nottingham, “but, it does.” The same could be said for Christine Franz’s directorial debut, a documentary following the two middle-aged, midlands rockers who, in a few years, went from playing to a few blokes down the pub to getting international accolades for their tenth album ‘English Tapas’.

The result is the inverse of the glamour or excess of classic rockumentaries like Beatlemania romp A Hard Day’s Night or blacklisted Stones doc Cocksucker Blues. The band’s frontman, Jason Williamson, is a self-effacing ex-benefits advisor and chicken factory worker in his forties. When he’s not delivering impassioned onstage rants against the BHS collapse and Twitter wankers, we see him wandering around his suburban kitchen making tea for his family.

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His bandmate Andrew Fearne is even more unassuming. Silent for most of the film, he dances jerkily a few steps behind Jason on stage, or taps at his ancient, sticker-covered laptop. Together, they sometimes come across like a self-aware, northern version of Peep Show’s Jez and Super Hans.

Everyone is surprised at Jason’s success. “I always thought he was one of those people that would disappear off the radar and you’d hear he was just dead,” says his own wife. Franz’s direction emphasises the natural comedy of the ordinary bloke-turned-rock star. She largely bypasses the band’s Glastonbury performance to instead show their knackered post-gig vulnerability. Her lo-fi camerawork and scrawled titles matches the cramped backstages that the band find themselves in, as well as their overall DIY ethos.

The band is stunned at a gig when German fans sing their strongly-accented lyrics back at them word-for-word. Similarly Franz, a German music journalist, adeptly reproduces a sense of working class England despite being an outsider. The sludgy tones of pints of bitter, rain-filled northern skies and concrete motorways contrast with the raw passion of Jason’s onstage presence, which is reflected back at equal strength by his fans. The film becomes a tribute to the power of shared experience in an age of alienation.

It does feel slightly too long, which hardcore Sleaford fans will likely appreciate more than the casual viewer. But the film successfully builds an image for the culture of disenfranchisement for which the band have been providing a soundtrack for the last decade.

Published 21 Apr 2017

Tags: Documentary

Anticipation.

A music journalist-turned-director follows “Britain’s angriest band” on their rise to the top.

Enjoyment.

It’s impossible not to root for these unexpected rock stars.

In Retrospect.

As much about transcending “Broken Britain” as it is about finding musical success.

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