Sleeper - The Modern Age - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Sleeper - The Modern Age

by James Weiskittel Rating:7 Release Date:2019-03-22
Sleeper - The Modern Age
Sleeper - The Modern Age

There was a time when Sleeper were the darlings of the mid-‘90s Brit-pop explosion. Little more than a year after releasing their stellar debut, the band rode a sustained wave of success (propelled by a handful of heavily-played singles from their second LP The It Girl) all the way (literally) to the Top of the Pops. But then, as quickly as it began, it all seemed to be over. Following disappointing sales of their third album, singer Louise Wener and her bandmates abruptly closed up shop and all but vanished from the musical landscape.

But now, with a string of reunion’ shows and one successful Pledge music campaign under their belt, the ‘90s alt-rock version of ‘what-could-have-been?’ is back and set to release The Modern Age, a record that finds the band seemingly picking up right where they left off.

The punchy, fuzz-laden album-opening “Paradise Waiting” instantly reveals that Wener & Co. have wisely opted not to mess with the Sleeper formula. Meanwhile, the album’s first single “Look At You Now” employs an incredibly effective soft/loud dynamic, and features an insanely catchy chorus that feels purpose-built for any satellite-radio ‘90s playlist. From there, Sleeper rolls out one guitar-driven rocker after another, with stage-ready songs like “Dig”, “Cellophane”, and “Blue Like You” providing some of the album’s most memorable moments.

But that’s not to say The Modern Age is a full-on nostalgia-trip. There’s a fair amount of synth-driven textures layered throughout the record as well, and songs like the acoustic-driven “Car Into The Sea” and “The Modern Age” provide the album with a healthy dose of diversity, while the album-closing “Big Black Sun” is a musical catharsis of sorts that finds Wener casting a blanket apology to, well, just about everyone. The brooding track is a fitting closer to what feels like a triumphant return for a band that stayed away for far too long.

While the band, who teamed up with longtime producer Stephen Street for the recording of The Modern Age, sounds in top form from beginning to end, the core of Sleeper's sound has always been Louise Wener’s distinctive vocals. And for her part, Wener sounds amazing. Her ageless voice and confessional lyrics are the thread that seamlessly connects the band’s latest effort to their heyday.

While it might be difficult to believe in this era of anniversary-celebration-driven reunions, according to Wener, the band’s recent rejoining was completely unexpected: “We had no plan to get back together. Sometimes life throws you a massive curveball. You end up jumping off the cliff, just to see what it feels like.” And to take the baseball analogy one step further, while Sleeper’s The Modern Age might not be a home-run, it’s nice to hear one of Brit-pop's best swinging for the fences yet again.

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One of the year's biggest surprises and best albums so far. Thanks for sharing.

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