Sleeper at Arts Club (1 March ’18)

This is an extended version of the review of Sleeper at the Arts Club that I have already written for Getintothis – see here, with extra self-indulgence, beer and t-shirts.

I set off through the snow, finding out en route what time opening act Pink Kink were due on stage – giving me just enough time for a pint at The Dispensary.

This was Pink Kink’s first show as a four piece, having shed their sole male member. I’d seen them once before, at Sound City back in May 2016, as reviewed here.

Pink Kink

They’re a fun, bouncy, eclectic live presence, with post-punk circa 1979 at their heart. The opening number brought to mind a cross between X-Ray Spex and The Slits, with the next song more a mix of Young Marble Giants and Marine Girls.

Here’s the video to their new single Bubblebutt (together with Neanderthal first comment on YouTube that they referenced when introducing the song):

The closest contemporary point of comparison is probably Stealing Sheep, although much harsher and bubbly, but equally bonkers. In a good way. Unlike the last time I saw them, I didn’t spot a kazoo in action, sadly.

They closed with their glorious Munchie Magic, a fabulous mix of Shonen Knife and The Rezillos“tangy cheesy pizza boyfriend” indeed.

Between bands, the DJ raided his Britpop collection for a mix of the expected (The Boo Radleys, Suede) and the slightly more surprising (The The).

How to do the reunion thing? There are a few options. You can decide to whitewash history and just focus on making new music a la Wire. You can get a bit curmudgeonly about having to play the old hits, like Dexys and Blondie. Or you can weave the old and the new together seamlessly, trying to relive former glories to somewhat diminishing returns. Witness Pixies and Ride.

Or there’s the pure nostalgia route, which is what Sleeper are doing right now. Perhaps they’ll stick around long enough to make a fourth album, but for now it’s just back to the mid-90’s, a time when Louise Wener and co had three top 10 albums and eight Top 40 singles, back when that meant they actually sold a fair few records.

For some reason, third LP Pleased To Meet You has been airbrushed from their history as they only played one track not to feature on either of the first two records.

Sleeper

Sleeper are still fronted by Wener, with guitarist Jon Stewart and drummer Andy Maclure also present from the original line-up. While not offering anything at all cutting edge (like the rest of the Britpop movement, really), Sleeper still offer a little more heft than contemporaries such as Echobelly and Lush.

I believe the bassist is called Kieron, but I can find no more about him, and he wasn’t an original member. Nor was the younger second guitarist to stage right.

After the traditional introductory theme from Cheers, the band strode out onto the Arts Club stage to a rapturous welcome from an audience unsurprisingly dominated by forty-something males, who evidently loved the band from their youth.

As I mentioned in my preview for Getintothis, I’d seen the band three times in London in their heyday. Slightly surprising, as I’ve always liked more than loved Sleeper, preferring many of their contemporaries, although the whole Britpop movement was far less exciting than it would have been if I’d been about five years younger.

After all, if you’re very familiar with Wire then Elastica are less exciting on first listen, likewise Oasis and The Beatles or Blur and The Kinks.

A triple whammy of tunes from debut album Smart got things going, with the band clearly thoroughly enjoying themselves, as though they couldn’t quite believe they were back doing this, and being so feted for it.

Louise kept her between-song chat to a minimum, but introduced Delicious by telling the crowd that it had been recorded up the road in Parr Street Studios, produced by Ian Broudie.

They then jumped to sophomore long player The It Girl for several songs before the set peaked for me with a brace of high-points, firstly their cover of Blondie’s Atomic from the Trainspotting soundtrack.

Louise Wener

This was enlivened by a snatch of The White StripesSeven Nation Army riff in the middle by Stewart, while the song featured some impressive drumming from Maclure.

The one-two smash was completed with their first Top 40 hit, Inbetweener, that actually got as high as number sixteen. This time, the highlight was Jon Stewart guitar work.

The set ended with Feeling Peaky which was segued into Lou Reed’s Satellite Of Love, before the band returned (after not all that much encouragement) for a three-song encore.

Debut album’s Alice In Vain was introduced as being from “our grunge period”, with the evening ending with their first Top 10 hit, Sale Of The Century. Patently heartfelt thanks from the band were returned with much love from the throng at the front of the stage as a successful nostalgia-fest was completed.

Tonight’s t-shirt

I decided to wear my green Teenage Fanclub t-shirt, the nearest thing to a Britpop tee I have. I could only spot another couple of band t-shirts amongst the crowd, as so many coats were being worn on such a cold night. Curiously, two of these were proper punk t-shirts in The Exploited and Vomit, along with David Bowie.

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Playlist

Here is much of the music from the night on Spotify:

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