ALBUM: SLEEPER ‘The Modern Age’

Making a comeback is a tricky thing to pull off. Things have changed since you’ve been away. The industry has for one thing, your face and voice for another. Then there are your energy levels. Your memory is also affected. You recall well how you were once treated, or do you? Was it with acclaim or opprobrium? Has your memory grown defective? It might have. Was your arrival and impact back then, in the bloom of youth, so small as to have been hardly felt at all? Will anyone remember who you were? You see, returning is very tricky. It’s when the worry sets in, slowly at first. You recall with certainty the photoshoots and the bank statements, the spotlights and interviews. The new house. It did all happen because there’s hard evidence to prove it, but your songs, are they still being hummed and spun in living rooms and kitchens across the land? And if not, is coming back even worth it? Might the returning bard be making a fool of himself? Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more?

Oh alright, comes the answer.

‘The Modern Age’ by Sleeper duly drops, a 10-song album that’s the band’s first for 21 years. And the sound? Well, it’s a bit like Blondie with a thump, a tad like St Etienne with some welly. The record is melodic and pitched far, far away from the safe space of the seemingly ubiquitous ukelele-led nursery rhyme muzak so beloved of the ad men and women. It’s a solid slice of pop at a time when that’s very hard to come by.

Formed in London in 1993, Sleeper achieved a clutch of UK Top 40 hit singles and three Top 10 albums (when that mattered), featuring also on the soundtrack of ‘Trainspotting’, a film seemingly outgunned by its own beefed-up score.

The band’s puckish lead singer, Louise Wener, went on to labour over a keyboard and forge another career as an author. She and her contemporary, Justine Frischmann, were women for whom nothing was too much of a stretch and, as if to continue to prove this assertion, Wener now returns, the insolent stare still there and, unless I’m very much mistaken (and I might be), there’s now something coquettish infusing her voice.

This four-piece, having once successfully wet their eight feet in Britpop’s treacherous waters, eventually deemed the water too stagnant, suddenly frozen, horribly de-oxygenated. Take your pick. But now they’re back and may the forthcoming tour set the crowds alight. Lord knows the crowds need it.

Jason Holmes

‘The Modern Age’ is out on 22 March on Gorsky Records