Sleepy People - Typhoid And Swans

Year of Release: 1997
Label: Edgy Records
Catalog Number: Edgy 105
Format: CD
Total Time: 50:07:00

This release is far from being soporific, despite one track being titled the "Soporific Life." In fact, Sleepy People are quite the opposite (soporific means "sleep inducing," by the way). They are at times eccentric, though perhaps not quite as much so as on their previous album Blunt Nails In A Sharp Wall. This is an eccentricity in the mold of Supersister and Oingo Boingo...with a bit of a Canterbury feel, I think. Vocalist Earl Slick has a theatrical voice, which gives the material the feel of a stage production. As for the theatric feel, a track like "She Laughs Until She Stops" has such an energetic, driving beat that you can imagine frantic actors zipping and prancing about the stage. And listening to "Strange Planet," (and really here and there throughout the album) there are times where you'd swear Slick was John Wetton; it is that kind of rich voice. Musically this has some classic sounding passages -- at one point I thought of a slowed down version of "That's Amore" (which I don't think is the actual title for that song, but you'll probably know the one I mean) and of "Figaro." Keys create a swirling bed in which guitar and bass waltz while the drums set the pace. Think of the early Moody Blues a bit. "Soporific Life" made me think, for a bit, of Joe Jackson (mainly in the plinking keyboards that remind of "Steppin' Out"), but you can also think a little bit of ELP (circa Trilogy, and yes, it also means I think Slick sounds a bit like Lake).

Their music would also have fit along side B52's and other humorous bands of the 80s -- of course the male/female vocals has something to do with the B52's comparison. Maybe the most eccentric track here is the staccato "Everything You Know Is Wrong," which at about for minutes in, adds in a wheeling "country fair" keyboard sound. It leads directly into the "sequel" track "Everything You Need To Know" which is bookended by trilling voices -- the best comparison I make here is some of the vocal effects in the B52's hit "Rock Lobster," though musically "Everything" is quite different. "Go," has an alternative-country-rock rhythm to it, such that one might first think of mid-90's Midnight Oil (circa Dust And Dreams); this album was originally released in 1997. No eccentricity here on this extremely classy track -- this is a very warm track, beautiful and gentle. On the other hand, "Halfway World" which opens the track and concerns a man being revived from a deep freeze (the first song about cryogenics?) has elements that remind of ice and give the song an appropriate cold feel.

There is an entertaining, playful interaction between the entire band. They sound like they had a terrific time making this album...highlights for me are the vocals, provided by, in addition to Slick, flutist Rachel Theresa. Theresa has a high, lilting voice that complements Slick's nicely, and the same can be said for her flute playing, which is some of the nicest playing I've heard in a while. And she manages not to sound like that famous flutist who almost always seems to get named checked (which I did sort of do in my review of Blunt Nails..... I think a band that has fun with arrangements, adding humorous tones and playful notes, also adds a bit of texture that makes their music stand out from the rest. Sleepy People certainly do that, even if there are elements that remind one of other artists.

Sleepy People is rounded out by Paul Hope on guitar, G Swaddle on drums, Gary Spangles on bass, and Anna Tanglewood on keys. Each of these performers adds just the right amount of that texture I mention above. They are tight and imbue each track with that sense of playfulness or serious, as the track demands. It is Hope who has written all the words and music, and yet he gives quite a lot of room to the other instrumentalists.

I really like Typhoid And Swans and enjoy listening to it; as I said, it's far from being soporific, as it holds one interests throughout. I recommend prog rock fans check this out, especially fans of some of the more modern prog rock bands, along with some of those I've mentioned.

Halfway World (2:41) / Soporific Life (5:50) / 100 Years Ago (4:59) / She Laughs Until She Stops (4:19) / Home Is Where Your Telly Is (3:04) / Nicky's Little Army (5:47) / Everything You Know Is Wrong (6:22) / Everything You Need To Know (3:45) / Typhoid & Swans (3:11) / Go (10:09)

Earl Slick - vocals
Paul Hope - guitar
Rachel Theresa - flute and vocal
Graeme Swaddle - drums
Gary Spangles - bass
Anna Tanglewood - keyboards

Blunt Nails In A Sharp Wall (1994/1999)
Typhoid & Swans (1997)

Genre: Other

Origin UK

Added: August 16th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1609
Language: english


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