As it stands there are few punk bands with basslines that measure up to the dub ruin that Jah Wobble brought to Public Image Ltd. Brooklyn's Sleepies praise the almighty Jah on their cover of PiL's “Annalisa” by cranking the bass so that even when the shredding white roar of the guitars tries to compete, it exists in mercy to the rhythm section.
Sleepies close their recently released More Humans tape, out today on Godmode, with the PiL cover. Recorded at Silent Barn with Nick Sylvester, the a-side is three Sleepies originals that act as definable jams, the sort of three-song run that merits destroying the fabric of “Annalisa” on the b-side just for the ever-loving fuck-all of it. Rather than go on ourselves, we'll turn adoration duties over to Sylvester:
How do you go back? From this?
This is the shake of punk to come. It is not disco, or post-punk, or even death disco, but there's a ferocious and beguiling stomp to it all, kinda like the Dicks' “Saturday Night At the Bookstore”. More than anything, it just feels now, in a way that the whole “total energy thing”–which Sleepies were smart enough to avoid the first time–is feeling a lot less like now.
This fucking cover. Jesus! I love how the boys reconfigured the original to have a Theo Parrish-like disco edit feel: the way the guitar riff cuts off all the sudden, followed quickly by the next verse. That was all done live, and the unique structure didn't strike me until we were recording at Silent Barn this past May. (For the tape nerds out there: Yes, this was recorded on the legendary Tascam 388.)
The extreme restraint these three bring at the top of the song slowly unfurls, and by the time they reach the end, it's devolved into the most pleasant creaking ship cacophony imaginable. An unreal amount of self-control, to pull this off convincingly. We decided to let love live, and didn't trim a second of it.
Sylvester also pondered over the last time a punk song made you anxious for a “moment” when that “thing” happens. The a-side is the band finding those sweet spots repeatedly; the Dinosaur Jr.-esque passages in “Big Rip”, the understated chitzing effect of rim drumming on “Dig”, the clever refrain “back when machines were just themselves” on “Plant Life. It's a series of “moments” that will sink into the skin. It all is working towards a sucker-punch in the “Annalisa” cover when Sleepies start to deteriorate around the Jah-bass, singer Thomas Seeley croaks something out about a rabid dog, and Sleepies rip it open from the inside for the finale that once again becomes unhinged until there's nothing but rubble and feedback.
Sleepies' More Humans is available in 100 hand-stamped, hand-numbered electric blue cassette via Godmode.