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Sleepy Jackson - Personality: One Was A Spider One Was A Bird

The Sleepy Jackson, Personality

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

IT seems to have taken an eternity for Luke Steele to follow-up the success of The Sleepy Jackson’s debut album, Lovers – but the wait has been worth it.

Personality: One Was A Spider One Was A Bird is as epic, tripped out and surreal as its name suggests, confirming Steele’s reputation as Australia’s answer to Brian Wilson.

Introducing the album himself, Steele says: “It’s hard to explain, but I wanted to achieve something phonetic with the vocals yet with the rhythmic appeal of Prince.

“Vocally, I guess it’s to do with the sound Brian Wilson achieved with the Beach Boys, but musically I wanted to steer away from that rigid format of rock ‘n’ roll. I wanted it to sound more like jazz really, that feeling of the music blowing with the wind…”

Certainly, the lush soundscapes that The Sleepy Jackson create are tailor-made to breeze over you, such is the spaced-out vibe surrounding many of the songs.

There’s grand piano, battalions of trumpets to augment several choruses and dreamy backing vocals that lend certain songs the Beach Boys harmonies that are so often cited.

The Prince influence, meanwhile, is particularly evident on tracks such as the sublime I Understand What You Want But I Just Don’t Agree – a terrific creation in its own way but one that owes more than a passing resemblance to Raspberry Beret (or even a cheeky wink).

Nevertheless, Steele’s use of swirling strings and more melodic vocal layering lends it a charm that’s uniquely Sleepy Jackson-orientated.

Other tracks to look out for are album opener, You Needed More, a slow-builder that eases you into the journey in supremely confident fashion, and Devil Was In My Yard, which unfolds against the sort of epic backdrop that ELO would have been proud to call their own. The guitars on this record are particularly strong.

Recent single, God Lead Your Soul is another gem, especially when delivering its mighty chorus that unfolds against the aforementioned trumpet fanfare.

Play A Little Bit For Love succeeds in funking things up a little, with a disco-style back-beat and some deliriously falsetto vocals, while there’s a soaring beauty to be found among the strings and banjo riffs of Dream On, which unfolds into an almost cinematic chorus.

Such moments of creative, epic excess are nicely offset by more straightforward efforts like Don’t Say where the guitars are more pronounced and the vocals much more earthy.

Yet no matter what he’s doing, Steele always remains sure to stamp his own sense of quirky identity across the songs. This means that some require a few listens before being truly appreciated, while others succeed in grabbing hold of you from the outset.

The result is a rich, ambitious and deeply satisfying album that’s been well worth the three-year wait.

Track listing:

  1. You Needed More
  2. Devil Was In My Yard
  3. God Lead Your Soul
  4. Work Alone
  5. God Knows
  6. I Understand What You Want But I Just Don’t Agree
  7. Miles Away
  8. Higher Than Hell
  9. Play A Little Bit For Love
  10. Don’t Say
  11. You Won’t Bring People Down In My Town
  12. Dream On
  13. How Was I Supposed To Know?