Sunday, 17 June 2012

Review: Sleepy Sun - Spine Hits

 My discovery of San Francisco rockers Sleepy Sun came as a result of my aimless trailing about through Edinburgh yesterday, as I hit several indie record stores and looked for some new stuff as well as buying classic albums that I really should have owned by now. Anyway, going in and out of indie record shops, telling the shopkeepers about the kind of music you like and asking for recommendations is an amazing thing which you all really need to do before you die. And my attempt at doing it has presented me with Sleepy Sun, whose powerful garage rock outing on their third album Spine Hits proves that underground rock and roll bubbles away with a hidden force.

 Of course, this is my first proper experience of Sleepy Sun but it would be stupid for me to go on without noting that this album marks for the band the first album since the departure of singer Rachel Fannan who took her soulful grace away from the band with her and left them without much to stand on. It has left the more knowledgeable critics assured that the band can in no way create an album with the same kind of soul and creativity that was found on the band's previous releases Embrace and Fever.

 However, the level of ambition on Spine Hits to create the perfect selection of chilled out riff based rock and roll songs with an unpolished shine can clearly be identified. Wether it's the outer principles of recording the album in the Desert at Joshua Tree, California, the birthplace of 21st Century rock and roll, also known as Josh Homme, or the production from Dave Catching who manages to focus on the delicate performance on sparkling guitar strumming from Evan Reiss and Matt Holliman while also being to build up absorbing levels of distortion. There's definitely a desire to build up a collection of songs that all take their inspiration from 1960's rock and roll, classic blues musicians and the coolest of names in indie rock.

 The band's ability to write a solid song complete with swing, hooks and just a major swagger is undeniable. The swing of Creature and V.O.G proves the band to be fully capable of still making a song with a White Stripes swagger that with the delicate vocal touch of Bret Constantino gives it an extra laid back smoothness and layer of total bliss and immersion. This comes into better effect with the tender 1960s influenced balladry of Siouxsie Blaqq and the musical encapsulation of Still Breathing.

But, as the knowledgeable critics agree, the loss of Fannan has taken away much from what the band has on offer. As hard as the band try, there's little in various songs that manage to leave a true impact and the overall performance on the likes of She Rex and Boat Trip to be a bit lifeless, plus with little mixture of the 1960s Americana influence and 1970s space rock influence in the same songs, there's little of the unique fusion that really gave their first two albums their wings.

 So, Spine Hits does prove my record shop visiting to be far from in vain but it does show that maybe I would have had a better time in going for some earlier material. In their current incarnation, the band are still widely capable of making a range of solid enjoyable rock songs that manage to have hooks, swing and swagger while being atmospheric and beautifully produced, but there's a lesser spark of wonderful dynamism and creativity that we my have relied on before. Guess my band hunting must continue.

 Sleepy Sun's Spine Hits is out now via ATP.

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