Since emerging out of the industrial fog of Nottingham in the late noughties, Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn – aka Sleaford Mods – have charted an unlikely ascent. With rudimentary electronic soundscapes and blistering invectives, they have filled a void articulating the frustrations of the working class man and woman in UKIP heartland.
Now they are the subject of a documentary by erstwhile German music journalist Christine Franz in her debut film. The good news is that not only is Bunch of Kunst compelling in a gloriously roughshod, rambling fashion; it feels alive; bristling with energy and anger. Perceived as something of a cult concern, arched eyebrows greet the opening litany of glowing testaments from unlikely, high profile musical admirers.
From there, Franz consciously cuts back to the inauspicious, dingy rehearsal dens that remain the nexus for their work. Williamson wrestles with a chorus line and makes amendments to his lyrics, which appear from a distance like an ambling stream of consciousness etched furiously on his smartphone.
As the film traces their path from the small, intimate pub gigs to a crowning, breakthrough Glastonbury performance, a fiercely independent spirit rings true at all times. The camera captures the mundane and the surreal, as well as preserving the sense that this is a team of individuals who are overcoming some considerable adversity, which includes not only their age, but their musical style too.
It is something that even stretches to their manager, Steve Underwood. An effusive and sincere man, his palpable excitement upon clasping his eyes on a grand tour bus has more in common with David Brent than anything you’d associate with David Geffen. But such a sight is all part of the charm. It certainly makes a case for Sleaford Mods’s brusque charisma being he perfect antidote to the sterile, eager-to-please, record label careerist sycophants that litter the musical landscape in the 21st century. Maybe the jib from which they are cut – ie that of a different era – is the last gasp of a bygone time; a swan song for outrage and anti-establishment disregard. Let’s hope not. Especially in times such as these.
Franz brings a no-nonsense style to this work that feels like the perfect bedfellow for the stripped back, DIY ethics of her subject. In time, this film will feel as much a snapshot of a particular time and place as Penelope Spheeris’s The Decline of Western Civilisation series of films or Julien Temple’s failed musical experiment Absolute Beginners. In fact, maybe this is this generation’s The Filth and the Fury.
All in all, the success of this film falls on the fact that it manages to give fans a precious peek behind the curtain, whilst also not limiting the appeal to them and them alone. As with all the great stories, this speaks about more than the surface subject matter.
Bunch of Kunst is released on April 21st