Sleaford Mods are the type of band that force you to have an opinion on them within about five seconds of hearing their music. There are no half-measures, no stylistic arcs, no organic steps taken, no time at all to let it sink in and decide if this is something you might like. They’re a duo from Grantham in England, a place most famous for being the birthplace of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Singer Jason Williamson speed-talks bile while Andrew Fearn provides coarse backing tracks, which barely get beyond cheap plastic keyboard presets. They’ve already released a ton of music, most of which got nowhere, until last year’s Austerity Dogs, which gained rolling acclaim as a treatise on the State of Things in contemporary England. It might sound unlikely, but a man who frequently references toilet habits in songs has become one of the most sharp and funny chroniclers of his country’s widespread slump into disillusionment.
On their self-titled debut, Negative Scanner prove themselves to be a good deal rawer than many of the bands resuscitating post-punk in the 2010s — which isn’t that surprising given vocalist/guitarist Rebecca Valeriano-Flores and drummer Tom Cassling‘s time with combustive Chicago garage punks Tyler Jon Tyler. As with their previous band, Negative Scanner quickly earned a reputation for being a commanding live act, and it’s easy to hear how these songs would explode in concert. Even more so than with Tyler Jon Tyler, Flores‘ voice is the focal point, whether she’s leaping from a growl to a wail on “Ivy League Asshole” or delivering Jello Biafra-like levels of vibrato on “Criticism.” The band recorded Negative Scanner in their practice space (with Chicago punk vet Mike Lust engineering and Mikey Young of Total Control and Eddy Current Suppression Ring mastering the sessions), which only adds to the sheer energy of tracks like the grinding “Planet of Slums.” However, Negative Scanner are at their finest when they add a little more nuance and melody to their attack: “Saturday Night & Sunday Morning” reaffirms how much post-punk suits Flores‘ vocals, while “Fan vs. Wild”‘s haunting mix of love and anger remains their best song yet. Songs such as these and “Would You Rather” and “Forget It” suggest that as ferocious as Negative Scanner are here, they’ve got a lot more to offer.