Nostalgia is a funny thing. I love 70s rock and more recent music that harks back to the 70s even though I missed out on existing in that decade by a few months. With that in mind, it doesn’t make much sense that I get a bit weirded out when people start harking back to stuff that I actually remember from the first time around. A case in point: loads of young people I work with have started buying SodaStream’s, presumably because they never experienced just how crap the fizzy drinks they made were in the 80s. Sainsbury’s own-brand pop was my sole source of hydration for about a decade and a half so it’s not as if my standards were high, but even I couldn’t stomach SodaStream cola which is how I’d imagine charcoal dissolved in fizzy water might taste.
I digress. Aliceissleeping: a London three-piece who are releasing their debut album Completely Fine on Mandrone Records. The press blurb notes that the band ‘takes inspiration from the vast palette of heavy rock, drawing on everything from ‘70s prog rock to [the] 90s’. I’m not going to quibble with that – there is the odd proggy element to their sound – but mostly the record sounds like an homage to the many and varied shades of 90s alt rock. In fact the trio sounds like they’ve stepped straight out of 1995, which is longer ago than I feel it should be, and that sits strangely with me.
Anyway, once I (mostly) got over the extreme 90s-ness of Aliceissleeping, I really enjoyed the album. Bass player and singer Alice Dionis has an awesome voice that sounds like an amalgam of half a dozen vocalists from back in the day, going all the way from a riot grrl snarl to cleaner sections that really made me think of Gwen Stefani. The production is quality – the heavy sections are properly heavy and the cleaner jangly guitar tone is period-perfect and absolutely spot-on.
Outsiders is an excellent track to open proceedings, with those comparatively clean guitar tones soon giving way to some comparatively heavy guitar. There is a bit of a prog flavour to the track as it doesn’t follow a linear verse-chorus structure and the brief instrumental break in the middle isn’t your traditional guitar solo. Mostly though, it sounds like a kick-ass alt rock track from the 90s with plenty of vocal hooks and quiet-loud dynamics. Felix is another cracking track, plenty of jangly-guitar-and-bass-only verses leading into those chunky choruses you loved way back when.
on the whole it’s a really fun record – it manages to be heavy and inventive while serving up some genuinely memorable tunes…
Lead single Over And Over Again follows a similar format, but the chorus is so insanely catchy that I’m not going to complain. Twilight is all together darker and makes for a nice change of pace. Do you remember the instrumental interlude Goliath And The Vampires from Monster Magnet’s Powertrip? It made me think of that for some reason, but with Alice’s haunting vocals over the top, a touch of electronica and a drum machine. Actually it’s a really rubbish comparison now I come to think of it.
Scary Mary is where this record started to creep me out. It’s a very good song, but everything about it is so unnervingly mid-90s that listening to it for more than 30 seconds made me start to worry that I was going to get awful spots and regain my virginity.
The second half of the record is a bit patchier. Alien and Negotiating Sex further demonstrate that Aliceissleeping really know their way around a tune and provide some interesting twists and turns. However, Not Cool is achingly 90s in a bad way – with annoying munchkin vocals and speech samples that (I’m guessing here) lampoon some hipster attitudes towards music, it’s the sort of gimmicky schtick that MTV used to lap up. Final track Lost Girls is fine but is much less interesting than most of the music that’s come before and falls a bit flat.
My complaint about the record being excessively 90s is entirely personal and probably won’t bother anyone else out there. Although there are a few duff tracks towards the end of Completely Fine, on the whole it’s a really fun record – it manages to be heavy and inventive while serving up some genuinely memorable tunes. One to listen to while doing something extremely 90s. Like watching Noel’s House Party or trying to figure out how VideoPlus works.
Scribed by: Liam Blanc