Sleeper @ The Garage, Glasgow, 21 Mar
Tonight at The Garage, Sleeper prove that their brit-pop sound survives nicely outside of its 90s origins
Support band Catholic Action set the stage nicely for Sleeper at the Garage tonight. A nice raucous rock band with interesting genre-hopping songs, their raincoated frontman Chris McCrory looks, in the nicest way possible, a bit like a mix of Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson and Limmy dressed up in his dad’s clothes as a 70s pop star.
Now for the main event. It’s difficult to think of Sleeper without also thinking about the 90s, ace as they still are. They were, unfairly, spoken of in some journalistic quarters as the pallid second cousins to the rest of the Britpop bunch. But while Noel Gallagher was cheerfully confessing in interviews that he was pretty much committing daylight robbery words-wise, Louise Wener was writing striking, grown-up lyrics. She was always a red-blooded woman singing about, amongst other things, her own sexuality and experiences, in some ways whizzing past Morrissey moaning in the dust.
In the boysy world of 90s indie, Wener's status as a confident woman fronting a band was something to write home about; something which, in the years that have since passed, hasn’t really changed. Wener was admirably centred in her own being, singing about making love on the sofa and girls dreaming of fast getaways. Still today, a lot of girls with guitars often don’t make it past the school music block.
There’s a lot of shifting and fidgeting in the middle of The Garage as the mostly male Louise Wener fan club jostle to stand where she can see them, hoping she’ll catch their eye when singing the lyrics of a spectacular rendition of Delicious. There are a couple of tracks from new album The Modern Age, very enjoyable slabs of mild to medium fuzzy-guitared tuneful pop. Sleeper are no nostalgia act, but it’s the likes of Factor 41 and a Garage-shaking outing of Blondie’s Atomic that get everyone sweaty. Something nice about seeing a band who started a while back is that they’ve had loads of time to get brilliant. Wener’s voice, a not-often spoken about thing, is especially strong and tuneful. There’s a nice time-tunnel effect for those of us who remember them from the 90s, although lead guitarist Jon Stewart taking a smartphone panorama of the crowd breaks the spell a bit.
Still, as it winds down, everyone in the crowd would be forgiven for making motions to get home in time for This Life on BBC2. We have YouTube for that now, though. In a world falling to pieces in a lot of ways, where it’s still notable that a band has a forward, brilliantly centred female singer, tonight's gig proves that Sleeper survive nicely outside of the 90s.