If I can draw your attention away from the likes of Oasis and Blur for just a few moments of your time, there were numerous other acts that you could classify as those that were never destined for musical greatness in Britpop. That era in the 1990s certainly where the nobility of Echobelly, Kula Shaker et al slotted in perfectly with the Cool Britannia/Damien Hirst/Camden Square ideal that was going on at the time.
Now, I admit almost ashamedly I had quite a crush on Sleeper frontwoman Louise Wener, her persona and works are the image of all things sophisticated and decorous. Her most successful band here wasn't around for long however, but for all the five years up until 1998 that they were together, they did manage to cut three studio albums, a respectable effort. However, their Britpop-ish traits meant that like all similar acts of the age, they were never going to enjoy any further success outside Blighty. After Sleeper's breakup, Miss Wener went on to forge a successful writing career balancing it with motherhood through her bandmate and partner, drummer Andy Maclure.
Apparently, this blog this has been dreamed up by The Editor Eddie as my punishment for reasons best known to Him, but secretly, I do like one or two songs by Sleeper. Sale Of The Century and Nice Guy Eddie are a couple of examples of how I wanted to spend my summer days lying on the grass and reading an Alex Garland book. Ok, maybe a white lie, so I'll get onto the point of this record. Smart is their debut album launched at the height of the Parklife/(What's The Story) Morning Glory days. Louise Wener sings with a light Chrissie Hynde/Mockney twang backed up by Jon Stewart's jangly and Johnny Marr inspired guitars right from the word go. The songs she sings, and sometimes recites, are of observational wit and and satire but thankfully the lyrics aren't too hard to decipher.
The tracks run for about two to three minutes each so nothing too lengthy on Smart, and they have an individual quirk about them, whether LW's telling a little story from the Big Smoke or drawing from a figment of her imagination. Best tracks in my opinion are Inbetweener which appears to slate the boyfriend for his fevered wild dreams and failure to accept some realities, while Delicious is a suggestive song leaving very little to conjecture. Alice In Vain is a semi narrative and closest thing to punk that Louise Wener's going to stretch to, but ultimately it's unashamedly indie. I do enjoy listening to the slightly overdubbed Twisted with some distorting vocals in the chorus and Pyrotechnician sounds like it's going to be a long laboured drawl into a sudden change in rhythm and heavy chords keeps flowing.
Not too keen on the middle tracks Amuse and Hunch though as they're slightly flat and take a little time to get going but that said not a disaster. They're reasonable fillers and prop up the album fairly well. I also like the front cover which is a photo call of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, and while the record will never depose the classic albums in its genre like The Great Escape (Blur) or I Should Coco (Supergrass), at least it's shown what Sleeper were capable of. Smart, despite its underwhelming title, is pleasant enough to listen to and if they never reform, probably no bad thing either. They had the good grace to quit while they were ahead, about the time that Britpop was going out of style. Some things are best left in the 1990s but try telling that to Liam Gallagher.
7 out of ten. This is good and well worth a listen.
You can buy Smart here on Amazon
Listen to the album here on Deezer
No official website, but I've found the band's profile here on Allmusic.com
Louise Wener official website here, including an amusing mini biopic