Star Shaped

Sleeper - The Modern Age

When Sleeper bowed out in 1998, it was with huge amount of integrity and credibility. Feeling the creative well had dried up, and not willing to flog a dead horse, they said an emotional farewell at Brixton Academy.

However, with the kids reaching their teens, and the loss of someone close to front-woman Louise Wener, the itch to take risks came to the fore. Calling in their unofficial member Stephen Street to helm the studio once more, they set off to Metway Studios. Would they roll a 6?

Despite fan affection for their third album ‘Pleased To Meet You’, their ability to be musically and lyrically incisive as they were on the classics ‘The IT Girl’ and ‘Smart’ was fading.  ‘The Modern Age’ however, sees Wener rediscover her razor sharp observations. ‘Look At You Now’, neatly signifies the times and their lack of reason “I hear your anger and howls of hate / With so little reason wit so little faith”.

Musically, there is much to cling to for long-time fans. Jon Stewart has found his inner Graham Coxon on opener ‘Paradise Waiting’ and ‘Cellophane’ and, on ‘Blue Like You’, there is an element of Teenage Fanclub glorious rumbling away. It’s the introduction of synths and psyche at various points which keeps everything fresh. The production on ‘Look At You Now’ adds a devilment to this sexy Pixies-esque anthem.

The real progress though, is made on ‘The Sun Also Rises’ and title track ‘The Modern Age’. The former, adopts the swirling spirit of Reverend and The Makers ‘Silence Is Talking’. As the cheery haziness unfurls, a new Sleeper is born. A sexier, wiser and more psychedelic Sleeper!

On the title track, Wener takes her song writing to the next level. She always had Weller and Davies’ ability to create uniquely British characters. This is on display yet again but, here, the emotion is ramped up to the max. Seemingly about the close friend she lost, an aching beauty unfolds as our fleeting existence materialises. The inner torment this must’ve taken to convey so elegantly and, in such a happy sounding song is reminder of music’s power. Listen to this song a 100 times, you’ll feel something different every time.

At every turn on ‘The Modern Age’, Sleeper have added something to their armoury. The guitars are beefier, the synths crisp and the psyche new. For all the charm they carried in the 90s, they are no-one’s understudy’s anymore. This feels like the record they were born to make.

Echobelly: Star Shaped Festival, Brixton

Festivals like Star Shaped are often sneered at for being regressive. To those chinless wonders, we direct you to Echobelly’s set at Brixton this past Saturday. Proving the future is unwritten, they littered a set of cult classics with new material and it more than stood up.

‘Hey Hey Hey’ witnessed Sonya Madan at her spell binding best. There was a nonchalance to her performance that exuded confidence and complete control. Key to Madan’s stature on stage is her long time writing partner, guitarist Glenn Johansson. His guitar was shimmering with looping psyche riffs on ‘Hey Hey Hey’ and ‘If the Dogs Don't Get You, My Sisters Will’, he is, undoubtedly, in the form of his life.

Timing can be everything in music, and Saturdays setting was the perfect platform for ‘Faces in the Mirror’. The tale of self-reflection which, is packed with doubt, regret and hope was met with a jaw dropping awe inspired silence, just for a nanosecond before applause. The crowd came for nostalgia and, they got it in the personalised and exquisite of forms.

The powerful message of ‘Faces in the Mirror’ put a fresh spin on ‘I Can’t Imagine The World Without Me’ and ‘Great Things’. Madan’s deeply personal lyrics transcended music in this moment, they didn’t compromise, and, they did great things!

The Real People: Star Shaped Festival, Brixton

It’s easy to see why Simon Fowler and Liam Gallagher have always cited The Real People as catalysts for their own success. Their breed of free flowing paisley psyche seeps into almost all of the great psychedelic rock n roll albums of the past 20 years in the UK.

What is harder to fathom, is why they remain outsiders in the alternative music world. As the layers of ‘She’ build towards their warped solo, whoever follows them onstage at Brixton is fucked. Luckily, it was My Life Story, there was no talent to be lost in the moment anyway.  

The Star Shaped team, on all their live events and club nights, do a great service in revitalising the spirit of the Britpop days. Truth be told, The Real People probably don’t belong both spiritually and musically. On ‘Complicated’ and ‘Dream On’, their timelessness comes gloriously to the foreground.

‘Complicated’, so effortless and striking, brings The Verve’s ‘History’ to mind with its ability to be whimsical and brutal all at once. ‘Dream On’ however, just blows Brixton Academy apart with its sweeping majesty, Neil Young and paisley guitars and emotive desperation vocal from Tony and Chris.

Be sure to catch them on their remaining 2018 dates:

Sat 6th October – The Flapper – Birmingham

Sat 17th November – The Platform – Morecambe

Sat 1st December – Leopard – Doncaster