The acclaim for Sleaford Mods' work grew nearly as quickly as their body of work: Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn recorded Key Markets around the time that Divide and Exit and Chubbed Up began appearing on "Best of 2014" lists. Fortunately, their speedy ascent didn't affect their approach or attitude; in fact, Key Markets might be even more pissed-off and contrary than their breakthrough album. While they may not have intended it as such, Divide and Exit was a major statement on 21st century dysfunction, full of pungent descriptions of frustrations big and small that struck a nerve with listeners worldwide. As hinted at by its title, Key Markets -- named after a grocery store Williamson's mother took him to in the '70s and '80s -- is more personal and insular, offering grimy close-ups instead of panoramas. He takes aim at the local music scene on "Live Tonight" and someone in it on "Cunt Make It Up," which features a memorable takedown: "Ya look like Rocket from the Crypt meets an old codger with one leg." Williamson's rants are often more direct and less poetic than they were on Divide and Exit, but picturesque speech abounds, ranging from turns of phrase like "all gone quiet on the wanker front" to his description of himself as "a little moaning arse fart blowing smoke" over seedy keyboard stabs on "Arabia." Indeed, musically speaking, Key Markets might be even more stripped down than either of Sleaford Mods' 2014 releases. As always, the crudeness is the point -- this is the sound of running out of patience -- but Fearn's backdrops more than hold up to Williamson's diatribes, and even offer a few flourishes. "Silly Me" dabbles in electro-funk, while "Tarantula Deadly Cargo" is an oddly compelling post-punk grind with a more live feel than most of the Mods' output. As wittily as Williamson and Fearn tackle Key Markets' smaller subjects, several of the best songs take aim at bigger targets, whether it's the outrageous behavior of politicians and pop stars on "Face to Faces," the complacency of "No One's Bothered," or the existential dread of "The Blob," which echoes the literal and figurative horror that made Divide and Exit so potent. While that was the album Sleaford Mods needed to make to gain a wide audience, Key Markets is the one that tells their listeners that they'll never stop raging against stupidity.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares