When Sleeper played the Star Shaped Festival at the end of 2017 it was a wonderful reminder of quite how good they were. Every song they played sounded like it should have been a number one hit. Choruses that were so catchy that the Centre for Disease Control in the States along with the World Health Organisation released official statements stating that they were more infectious than bird flu…and that, unlike bird flu, they were real. Lyrical flashes that highlighted the fact that, in Louise Wener, we were dealing with a writer of great craft and intelligence…and more than a little humour. A rhythm section who could make the lame walk, like a gang of musical Jesus’s. Honestly, it was a blessing to have been able to witness it.
That would have been enough.
That one last chance to thrill at the splendours of a band we loved.
That final farewell.
That last opportunity to catch the eye of Louise Wener and tell her, telepathically, how happy they two of you could be together.
Of course not.
We all went home happy.
Then the rumours started.
Then the rumours were confirmed.
This wasn’t nostalgia.
This was simply the end of the last chapter and the start of a new one.
We swooned, hearts skipped beats, pulses quickened and we waited.
Now the wait is over.
“Look at you Now” has arrived…it was even played on the radio by Lord Lamacq of Britpopshire.
I know what you want to know.
You want to know…if it is any good.
The answer to that is a simple “yes”.
The answer to that is much more complicated than a simple “yes”.
It is, in fact, something much better than good.
“A return to form” some might loudly proclaim on the Twitter.
They are wrong, wrong, wrong.
This isn’t a return to anything.
It is a proclamation of something new.
Sleeper, ladies and gentlemen, have released their finest work some twenty-one years after we thought they had released their final work.
It starts with a combination of Giorgio Moroder and Patti Smith which, of course, instantly makes it a bona fide classic. There is a hint of “I Feel Love” on Librium before Louise appears begging God to forgive her for her sins; “Lord forgive me, for what I’ve done, I’m the only child of the only Son.” which is reminiscent of Patti Smith and her “Jesus died for somebody’s sins…but not mine” at the start of “Gloria” on “Horses”.
“The land that raised us, was full of wheat, now the fields lay fallow and the blood runs deep”
I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore Toto.
A reminisce of Britain as Albion…a land where the fields were full of wheat but where now “fields lay fallow” and “blood runs deep” manages to invoke the bleak truth of food bank Britain and force us to address a past that includes mainstream politicians talking about “rivers of blood” in relation to race.
This is Britpop in the time of Brexit.
While it might be easy to see the following lines as a bit of gentle poking at past their sell-by date rockers, I think the truth is something much more serious;
“Look at you now, you’re running out of things to wear…still playing all your hits, but that won’t take you anywhere.”
Could it be that the notion of Britain itself trading on past glories is what Wener is really hitting at? A call to be slightly more outward looking? A rejection of the current political climate?
Or it could just be about how daft Mick Jagger is.
Not for me to say really.
“Can you trust a future that never comes?”
“…howls of hate, for so little reason, with so little faith”
These are the sorts of lines that when falling from the pen of Morrissey are hailed as evidence of his genius…not that he has written anything as good as this since about 1874. Yet again Louise proves that she wasn’t a female fronting a band; she was a writer. A writer with things to say and a knack of saying them in deliciously clever, witty and provocative ways. It is a wonderful thing to be able to say that nothing has changed.
While you are here.
“Look at you Now” is also a stone cold banger.
A crowd pleaser.
A teaser of what’s to come.
A foot stomper, a fist pumper.
A dizzying, dazzling, deft defying, dream of a song.
Welcome back Sleeper.
We’ve missed you.