Album review

The Sleepy Jackson : Lovers
Virgin Records

The Sleepy Jackson : LoversDebut albums are often notable for their diverse, sometimes indecisive mix of styles and themes, as the artists struggle to make their mark, establish themselves and let the listener know what they're all about. This is certainly true of The Sleepy Jackson's first full-length Lovers; although you can't help getting the feeling that lead singer and commander of mayhem Luke Steele is simply taking us on a roller coaster ride of genres, just for the sheer hell of it.
    Within the space of the first two songs you quickly realise that someone who can move seamlessly from the Harrison-esque opener Good Dancers with its winding, whining strings, floating female harmonies and sitar-laden backing, to the stomping glam-rock, Velvet Underground sounding Vampire Racecourse is not going to be easy to categorize.
    And it would appear that Steele wants it this way, using the album to take us on a whistle stop tour of talent, ideas and bursting creative potential. It's certainly a hell of a ride, with Steele's natural flair for picking out a hook at a hundred paces, and turning his dexterous hand to just about any genre which takes his fancy. If you were going to write a musical CV with the simple intention of saying 'look, here's what I can do', then you couldn't do much better than this.

Luke Steele's musical aptitude and ability to craft something new and edgy from what you thought was old and familiar is unquestionable, but as a result Lovers often lacks cohesion and jolts awkwardly at times between styles, never allowing the listener time to settle and feel at ease. On the other hand, there is more than enough originality in sufficient diversity to engage and inspire a wide variety of tastes.
    Whether it's the impressively appealing alt-country swing of Miniskirt or the predictably catchy, hook drenched "Na na na" chorus of This Day or even the dubiously clichéd, yet still unsettling monotone voiceover of Fill Me With Apples you're going to find something you like.
    Lovers is littered with switch-flicking licks which makes it hard to dislike, and despite pilfering liberally and shamelessly from a countless number of sources you're ready to forgive them because they manage to bring something innovative to everything they turn their hands to. For my money, Don't You Know encapsulates everything they do best; enigmatic and subtle but layered with depth and quiet sophistication. One of many 'gems' to be found, if you're prepared to invest a little time, postpone your initial judgment and let them do whatever the hell it is they do to make an album like this.

At this early stage it's hard to tell if it's calculated insight or just pure good luck that so much of this album hints at greatness, although as a whole, never quite reaches it. It's a patchy but rewarding affair, assembled in a quirky juxtaposition of the recognizable and the familiar sitting oddly alongside haphazard inspired brilliance. And for having the sheer audacity to pull it off I'm prepared to give Steele the benefit of the doubt, and sincerely hope that he proves me right.

:: Tom West

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