Sleaford Mods might not be the band you want them to be but they sure are the one they want to be. It is in that spirit that this is almost certainly not the film you wanted it to be in that it ‘s about a band but not one with any on the road drama, it’s all about them but very little is actually about the music, in fact, very little of it is about anything. But that’s very much England in the 2010s isn’t it?
Sleaford Mods, the band about which this film is focussed, are kind of like if John Cooper Clarke was born in Nottingham and started an electronica outfit, by way of The Knife and Crass (who, coincidentally, have a presence in the film via Steve Ignorant). They tell tales of modern Britain, often with a wry humour and a fiery hatred of the establishment but the fascinating thing about the band is that this documentary shows that they are far from the traditional idea of Rock n Roll, that telling stories of the moribund existence of the day-to-day just comes to them because they say to write what you know. Herein lies what makes this feel unique in the crowded field of Music docs, nothing really happens. What does happen is very well shot and never feels boring but for a road trip that goes from Nottingham, around Europe and back to Nottingham with the band debating signing a big deal with Rough Trade along the way, there’s no drama. It’s quite refreshing seeing a group not playing up to the camera and actually seeming to be themselves at all times. Seeing insights like them talking about the bus routes they filmed music videos on and the tedium of playing the same songs every night on a tour are unique mostly in how downplayed they are.
But ultimately, it does stretch purpose a little that it is so drama-free, there’s only so much you can really show of drunk people outside the clubs of England professing the genius of the band before it feels like there doesn’t actually seem to be a film here. What there is, is going to be some, myself included as you can guess from the 4.5/5 up there, is a hypnotic, oddly beautiful exploration of the real life of a working band but for some, it’s just an extended travelogue offering little in the way of actual insight into the inner-lives of the band or their creative process. You might dislike it for different reasons but I don’t know, make your mind up for yourself for once.
Ultimately, it’s going to be a bit too slight, a bit too much of just a slice-of-life for some but my bet is that the people to whom this doesn’t appeal are the same people who probably didn’t really like the band in the first place. It’s not exactly the sort of project that you can sell to someone who isn’t already a fan of the lads as pretty much they are the film. I’d describe it as the closest thing to Samuel Beckett making a music documentary but it’s far too optimistic for that, well, optimistic is a push but it’s not as miserable as you’d expect. This isn’t the same polemic response to England that their music is but then if you spend your evenings screaming bloody murder at the establishment, you probably want a break when you get off-stage.
Dir: Christine Franz
Scr: Christine Franz
Cast: Jason Williamson, Andrew Fearn, Steve Underwood, Iggy Pop, Steve Ignorant, Geoff Barrow, Geoff Travis
DOP: Daniel Waldhecker
Prd: Christine Franz
Runtime: 102 minutes
Bunch of Kunst is available on DVD and Digital now.
Bunch of Kunst is out on DVD & Download from 8th June.