I’m a bit late with my review of those musical marvels from East Yorkshire this time. July’s E.P offering from Sleeperman is called Northern Soul Weekender (In Skegness), the place in question between the parentheses giving the usual chortle inducing gentle humour that the band is well know for.
So what do we get this time? Well, my friends, something quite radically different and, to use the old Cuprinol analogy, you do get exactly what you see on the tin! That Motown inspired beat and rhythm you’d expect from a Northern Soul track is present in spades and instantly puts a grin on my face. Mr Skinner’s bass playing is tight and precise and drives the song on with gusto and glee, along with Phil Sharp’s energetic drumming.
John Hilton’s lyrics are as wry and pithy as ever and his unique vocal delivery works really well with that 60’s inspired music.
“She’s spent too long clearing up after everyone else, watched too much TV she’s not been interested in, she’s minded the fort when all the others deserted, punch drunk on disappointment she took on the chin…”
Another thing that really puts a smile on my face is Neil’s funky, soul infused guitar playing, this track really has everything you could want and, once again, proves that some of the best and most original songwriting is coming out of my little corner of the world and, you know what, that really makes me proud!
As usual there is a b-side to the single and this time it’s a rather sultry, blues inspired affair with a really laid back tempo and some rather elegant piano playing. John takes the low key approach on his vocals and, in doing so, see the band produce something even more different than has gone before.
Yes pop pickers, it’s that time of the month again. Those cheeky chappies Sleeperman carry on releasing a new track every month and June sees The Grass Under My Feet arrive at Progradar Towers in it’s retro 45RPM single cover.
In a departure from the usual guitar sound from Neil Scott, this song features a really funky pulse guitar style groove that gives the track a more upbeat rhythm and plenty of impetus. As I’m listening to it for the third time, the sun is shining and it’s 22 degrees outside and the music just has that feel-good summertime feel to it.
The lyrics and John’s vocals are as pin sharp as ever and the cultured rhythm section of Sharp and Skinner drive everything along at a fair lick as that vibrato heavy guitar riff gets even more infectious.
“I want to breathe in some clean air and march along to my heart’s beat, give myself some surprises and feel the grass under my feet.”
The honest, pithy lyrics are as refreshing as ever and the band have given us a real breath of North-Eastern fresh air, roll on July!
As befits the 45RPM single idea we have another excellent ‘B’ side to back up the single. The guys return to whimsical humour and clever views of everyday life with The Grass is Always Greener,
“You were born in the drizzle of a Wednesday in the North, you know a donkey is a donkey and you’ll never change its course…”
To me, Sleeperman seem to really resonate with my idea of what music should be all about and long may it continue!
Released 4th June 2018
The Grass Under My Feet is available on all good digital platforms and the CD is available direct from the band, contact via their Facebook page here:
Those erudite wordsmiths from East Yorkshire, Sleeperman, are back again with the fifth single from 2018 and the song titles just keep getting longer!
May’s single (I know, the review is a bit late this time!) is called, deep breath, ‘Why Can’t You Say I Look Nice, When I Look Nice?’, both a test of your diction and punctuation. The intelligent songwriting takes both a mournful and melodramatic direction with a darker subject matter but the incisive wit is there again in spades.
John Hilton’s vocal has a melancholy appeal that gives a more emotive edge to the song and Neil Scott’s 50’s guitar twang adds the required sepia twinged touch of pathos and regret (just check out that elegant riff!). The subdued drums of Phil Sharp and Steve Skinner’s laid back bass playing give real humanity to the music, to be fair, you either get this band or you don’t and I love their nods to the angst of Billy Bragg and the realities of real life, it’s simply rather wonderful.
The ‘B-side’ is a wistfully charming track with yet another lengthy title (I wonder if the band run competitions for this?!). ‘She Was The First Girl In Our Street To Die Her Hair’ will set many a 50 year old heart a fluttering about first crushes and unrequited love, once again the songwriting abilities of Sleeperman leave a smile on my face and an amused tear in my eye…
Like a never ending musical production line staffed with working class heroes from the 50’s and 60’s, those folks at Chippy Records have released the fourth Sleeperman single of 2018 and, once again, it is a humour filled triumph of social commentary and the lives that normal people lead.
“Aged eight she was going to join the ballet, at 16 she went to Spain and shared a chalet, at 24 she’s got three kids from men she didn’t marry.”
The witty and pithy lyrics in Keeley Really seem to come from a well that never seems to run dry and the jovial, traditional music delivery adds a real down to earth feel to everything that these talented guys touch. John Hilton’s vocal delivery is almost spoken as well as sung and it adds a narrative feel to the song. Neil Scott’s jangly guitar sound echoes with hues of 50’s rock n’ roll with its Duane Eddy twang and Steve Skinner and Phil Sharp are the perfectly chilled rhythm section that glue everything together.
“She reads them stories every night, she brings her kids up right. Her shoulders tattooed with their names; Diesel, Magaluf and James.”
These guys just seem to get how I feel about music spot on every time, a real soundtrack for my generation.
As ever, with their faux 45rpm style, there’s a B-side and The Places That We Knew Before Are Not Those Places Anymore shows a more melancholy side to the band and the songwriting.
“Remember swimming naked in the ship canal because we’d seen it in a film…”
It’s a sepia tinged wistful look back at younger days when anything seemed possible and any ambition was attainable. As the saying goes, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be but the bitter sweet lyrics and music are delivered just about perfectly.
Sleeperman have done it again, this is becoming a series that is as addictive as anything that Sky, Amazon or Netflix can deliver and, if you haven’t already, come join us on this incredible ride.
“…if I’m lost, I’m on my phone, you can always find me, Tesco’s have a read on how much lager I will need to unwind me..”
The lyrical genius of Sleeperman once again brings a smile to this tired old hack’s face. Sharp, canny and incisive lyrics are becoming a real U.S.P of this clever band which, along with music that always hits the spot, are making them a highlight of this musical year for me. The third single release of 2018 is Loyalty and the guys once again tweek a winning formula by giving a little bit of eastern promise to their sound.
To quote the band, “NEIL’S SITAR INFLUENCED GUITAR MOTIF IS AN (ARRANGED) MARRIAGE WITH JOHN’S LYRICAL TRIBUTE TO THE BARD IN A TALE OF SUPERMARKETS AND PERSONAL IDENTITY. “
That Indian influenced guitar motif is incredibly catchy becoming an earworm and one that gives additional polish to what is already a very impressive song. I’m probably not the only one who actually rewinds the song so that they can listen to the witty and pithy lyrics which, combined with the excellent bass of Steve and Phil’s elegant drumming, advance the coda of Sleeperman further on up this involving musical road.
The B-Side Peace of Mind and a Good Night’s Sleep compliments Loyalty perfectly, you must take the time to get immersed in these musical storytelling gems, independent music seems to be forever fighting a rearguard action against the corporate bullshit that abounds in the music industry of late but, with bands like Sleeperman giving us intelligent music with stories that we can relate to on a personal level, long may that fight continue.
So, the Sleeperman singles production line has released the second of their ‘new single every month’ releases and I have the pleasure of reviewing it.
This time the East Yorkshire quartet seem to have taken a chill pill with new track ‘You Would Not Be Seen Dead In A Shirt Like That’ and ‘B’ side ‘Black Ice’.
The CD single comes in the usual faux 45rpm vinyl 7″ packaging which is becoming a really nice touch but, much as I’m a sucker for great packaging and album covers, it’s the music that is ‘inside’ that counts!
As is becoming patently obvious with Sleeperman it’s not just the well crafted music that counts, it is also the clever, pithy and pertinent lyrics that make their songs stand out and the wistful, nostalgic grace of ‘You Would Not Be Seen Dead In A Shirt Like That’ is no exception. John Hilton’s wonderfully laconic and laid back vocal delivery once again delivers wry observations that make you smile, his occasionally sardonic voice is a perfect fit for the roots and alt-country inspired guitar playing of Neil Scott and makes the song a wonderfully laid back three minutes of near empathetic perfection.
“The saddest thing I ever saw was an old man alone in the light from a corner shop, his coat was too big, he was crying into his cupped hands…”
The ‘B’ side ‘Black Ice’ is a bit of a departure for the band and takes a different musical direction to what they delivered before. The repetitive, urgent and yet low key guitar intro give a feeling of hesitancy and John’s vocal has a pleading tone. It’s another intelligent three minutes that grabs your attention and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Pared back and minimalist, it almost ghosts across your senses and leaves you in a state of calm bewilderment.
They’re a clever lot Sleeperman and what they are doing is taking us back to the great era of music when the anticipation of newly released singles was almost too much to bear. Not only that, they are delivering on that anticipation big style, this is music for the music lover, music to cherish and not the usual throw away rubbish that seems to assault the charts nowadays. I take my hat off to them and long may it continue!
Forgive the terrible pun but I’ve been listening to a song that has just brought back wonderfully wistful memories of the sepia tinged days of my youth. Hey, lets’s be honest, they weren’t always great times but I can now look at them with a kind of indulgent fondness.
So, what has me yearning for the days when vinyl was the only format and I used to wear my brother’s hand-me-downs and my Mum was West Hill’s most eminent knitter? The new single (single? remember them?) from East Yorkshire’s Sleeperman, that is the catalyst. Bleach Blonde Pharmacist comes in a superb cardboard 45rpm single style cover and the CD even looks like a 7″ single, replete with ‘B’ side!
The band will release a new single on the fourth of each month throughout 2018 culminating in theirChristmas single in December.
Bass player Steve Skinner, guitarist Neil Scott and singer/poet John Hilton, joined by new drummer Phil Sharp are from a generation brought up to pick the bones from a confusing diet of Clint Eastwood and Germaine Greer. They have a collective soft spot for a well-made sandwich and Nordic Noir and though sandals are not a compulsory item of their dress code they are fond of and cling to the notion of everyone getting along.
Their unique blend of pithy, witty and often irreverent lyrics and excellent roots/folk/alternative music comes to the fore on the new track. Bleach Blonde Pharmacist opens with a driving bass and guitar riff, giving a sardonic, even laconic feel to the song. John delivers each line as if he he is biting off the words and it works brilliantly. It’s a song of real people in real situations, delivered with a tongue-in-cheek, off the wall wit. Imagine Northern humour mixed with an Americana vibe and you are on the right track,
“In the end you’ll have to pump up the tyres, pack tuna for a fortnight, take your Swiss Army knife and a whistle and head for the hills… You’ve got your family and your friends, your Transit and your bluetooth…”
And that’s just a smidgeon of the lyrical genius that Sleeperman impart, the wry observations come thick and fast, at all times backed by the stylish music.
The ‘B’ side (if we call it that) is a totally different beast, the flippancy is nowhere to be seen on as the opening notes to Sleep play out. Hilton’s vocal takes on a wistful tone and the music takes on a laid back sentiment. Laid back, relaxed and carefree, the nostalgia and humour have a much gentler air.
“And the ice cream van plays Greensleeves, when the sun goes down they’ll all leave…”
A bittersweet feeling piece of music that seems to yearn for times gone by, I nod my head in quiet appreciation as it comes to a close.
Following on from last year’s E.P. ‘Late Onset Optimism’, Sleeperman have once again delivered a wonderful eight minutes of music that delivers on a personal and honest level. You feel yourself sympathising with the characters in the songs because you know, if not for the grace of God, it could have been you. Surely that is what great songs are all about!
“Humor keeps us alive. Humor and food. Don’t forget food. You can go a week without laughing.”
― Joss Whedon
“Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
To be honest, I never thought I’d use a quote from a Harry Potter novel in one of my reviews either but it is really relevant. Humour in music can be really clever, incisive and actually work or it can be excruciatingly unfunny and spoil the whole record. When that humour is witty and full of wry observations of relationships and life in general then it can lift the music to a whole different level.
When a good friend of mine (and bass player with Sleeperman) Stephen Skinner described their music as a cross between Alan Bennett and Ian Dury & The Blockheads I was definitely intrigued. After watching a video of them singing a track from the new E.P. live on social media I was hooked!
A levity filled 12 minutes of music, ‘Late Onset Optimism’ is full of sharp social comment and brilliant wordplay where the whimsical lyrics written by published poet and the band’s vocalist John Hilton have been set to music by Stephen and the rest of the band, Neil Scott (guitar) and Joel Cash (drums).
Sleeperman have played music since vinyl was not just the hipster choice but the only choice of music format – for and with artistes such as Everything But The Girl, Felt, Denim, Orange Juice and Edwyn Collins.
The band are from a generation brought up to pick the bones from a confusing diet of Clint Eastwood and Germaine Greer and remember when the only late night TV was The Open University and a time before smoothies. They embrace the work of Ian Dury, Fred Dibnah, Alan Bennett and The Buzzcocks, Ken Loach and The Kinks but cannot endorse films based on video games or careless use of the word ‘baby.’ They are trying to write and perform catchy songs about what now is like and embrace and cling to the old-fashioned idea of everyone getting along.
(L-R Neil, John, Stephen & Joel)
After the opening guitar flourish for I Put The Bullets In But Can’t Pull The Trigger, Neil launches into a Duane Eddy ‘Peter Gunn’ style riff that’s as catchy as hell and John’s semi-spoken vocal adds real atmosphere to this song about the age old conundrum of how to end a relationship. Joel and Stephen’s subtle rhythm section guides the track along at a jaunty lick and, as you listen to the incisive lyrics, a big grim spreads over your face. We’ve all struggled with trying to end a relationship and not being able to say the final words. This is my first introduction to John’s wicked lyrics:
“I wish I had the sense to just get rid, like Shane or The Milky Bar Kid, but you need bigger balls than I’ve got to clean up Dodge the way they did..”
That about sums it all up on this song full of modern metaphors, the music is brilliant, Neil’s mariachi-esque guitar solo a case in point, and the lyrics are full of social comment but with a real wry sense of humour.
A song about a quirky relationship, Accrington Not Hollywood sees the music and John’s vocal take on a wistful and nostalgic tone, the lyrics full of gentle humour. There’s a real feeling of bonhomie running throughout this track, a proper feelgood piece of music.
“You thought us star crossed lovers cos we’d not had many others, you called it fate and kismet though I hadn’t met your Mum yet…”
There’s a hypnotic, lilting tone to John’s voice that just draws you in, I don’t know why, but it really took me back to the sepia tinged black and white pictures of the 50’s that I’ve seen, when the world seemed a simpler and better place.
A bittersweet love song, Just Talking opens with a gentle guitar intro before John’s dulcet tones join in with a plaintive edge added to his sweet sounding vocal. There’s a regretful feel to the lyrics, like a man unsure of what he wants and how to express it.
“I didn’t just fall from the tree, you might fool them, you won’t fool me. It’s just something I thought I’d mention, don’t pay me any attention…”
There’s a delicate balance between happy and sad, heavy-hearted and walking on clouds that goes one way and then the other as the song continues. It’s beautiful but there’s darkness deep within.
The four track E.P. finishes on an uplifting note with the wonderful dysfunctional friends that are the subjects of This Is Us Lot. A funky, jazz infused rhythm is given by Stephen’s smooth bass and Joel’s stylish drums, add in Neil’s infectious guitar with its New Orleans tone and John’s cutting lyrics and you have a brilliant piece of social satire. Imagine Billy Bragg on happy pills and you wouldn’t be far wrong!
“You catch up with Mandy, it’s while since you’ve seen her, she spent a month as Joe Longthorne’s cleaner, caught him plucking his eyebrows, cursing his mother, downing glasses of Baileys one after the other…”
I find myself imagining these characters as real people, a musical version of Shameless even and the short but exceedingly addictive chorus just sticks in your mind becoming an irreversible earworm. All too soon the song and the E.P. come to a close and I find myself with a knowing grin on my face, that was thoroughly enjoyable!
Wit, humour and social commentary make for excellent bedfellows in music when it is written and performed as well as this. Incisive, socially conscious and yet sometimes irreverent and witty lyrics that we can all relate to married to music of the highest quality, folk, alt-rock, country and good old rock n’ roll and a little birdy tells me that a full-length album is mooted to be in the wings for later this year…