In an article for ARTROCKER MAGAZINE back in March 2010, I was asked to detail my Top Ten ‘Hot For 2010’ list.
OK, so it’s taken a while longer for the world to wake up to SLEEPY SUN than I had predicted, but they are now receiving the plaudits and critical acclaim they so richly deserve. Having served their ‘apprenticeship’ opening up for the likes of The Black Angels and even The Arctic Monkeys, the release of their third album, ‘Spine Hits’ will surely cement their status are one of Rock’s greats. (Indeed, it’s good to see that ARTROCKER have this month afforded the album a ‘five out of five’ star rating.)
And of course, I’m not going to disagree.
This album evidences a natural progression from 2009’s debut ‘Embrace’ and ‘Fever’ which followed in 2010. It is the first release however not to feature the dual vocal and dulcet harmonies of Rachel Fannan who together with Bret Constatino defined the band’s early, distinct sound. I have to confess to being a little unsure of what to expect from SLEEPY SUN following Rachel’s departure in the autumn of 2010 – but I needn’t have worried.
This is one mighty album!
Although ‘Spine Hits’ may differ from its predecessors in its composition, it unquestionably retains the unique warm ‘desert rock’ feel that distinguishes SLEEPY SUN from other psych / ‘stoner’ type bands.
For instance: all three albums run to around forty-five minutes. But where ‘Embrace’ and ‘Fever’ manage eight and nine tracks respectively, ‘Spine Hits’ crams in eleven! So although they have not totally ignored their almost trademark wide, sweeping, expansive psych sounds the album is more ‘punchy’ and concise in its delivery.
Opening track ‘Stivey Pond’ is a case in point. Big, chunky guitar riffs are the order of the day as the listener is immersed in heavy waves of bluesy rock that periodically subside to quieter moments. ‘She Rex’ follows, reminding me of early Howling Bells, it being more of a conventional rock song than you’d perhaps have expected previously from the band. ‘Siouxsie Blaqq’ gives the listener a modern take on slow, dreamy psychedelia before ‘Creature’ returns us to the sound of Bret’s wailed and rasping vocals that we have grown accustomed to. ‘Boat Trip’ perhaps has a little Lou Reed inspiration going on through it.
‘V.O.G.’ is a real foot stomper, with pounding bass lines and catchy guitar, while ‘Martyr’s Mantra’ has that epic shuffling rhythm favoured by The Stone Roses on some of their later classics. This one tips the six-minute barrier and I have to say is absolutely absorbing from first to last. ‘Still Breathing’ is like a pause for breath (?!) in that the pace slows dramatically, with half of the song’s duration given over to the ‘intro.’ Bret takes on a higher vocal range and harmonica duties over acoustic guitar and a constant drone as the song meanders its blues inspired path before ‘Yellow End’ initially heads along the same direction until the intensity increases and we are treated to a terrific future ‘heavy-blues’ classic.
‘Deep War’ and ‘Lioness (Requiem)’ close the album. The former moves through some hushed moments only to pick up with pounding, tribal drum beats and soaring guitar, while the latter, in the band’s own words is ‘a drifting, drowsy, late night lost in contemplation, dawn nowhere in sight.’
A ‘mighty’ album? – a colossus of an album more like!
Yeah – this is the dawn of the new SLEEPY SUN, and the future is bright!
(Far be it for me to crow ….. but I did try to tell you a couple of years ago!!)
(Released through ATP Recordings on 9th April 2012)
(10 / 10)