Mad Aussie makes brilliant record
No this isn’t a dream. There is another prodigious but troubled young Aussie making brilliant music from an obscure Antipodean outpost. He’s Perth’s Luoke Steele AKA the mindboggling musical visionary behind The Sleepy Jackson. He conjures up psychedelic pop on a musical tectonic plate that – epending on the days geometric conditions – schisms between joy and rage, adulation and melancholia, happiness and sadness. The end result is a debut that’s stands with the bizarreness ‘n’ pop royalty of The Polyphonic Spree, The Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev.
The Sleepy Jackson‘s self-titled UK debut is an 8-track compilation of Steele’s troubled musical and mental odyssey since the band emerged Down Under in 1999. His life is a psycho version of that other wizard of Oz, Craig Nicholls – a tale of drugs (scary amounts of), booze (loads), control freakery, fisticuffs, perfectionism (he sacked three of his backing bands – one featuring his brother – within months) and then redemption at the end of it all when he found religion. Oh, and there’s some of the most brilliant weirdo-pop along the way.
The opener ‘Not Crying’ is a hazy 45-second blues strum that makes way for ‘Good Dancers’ a harmony-laden, steel-guitar driven song packed with vitality that sounds like the start of Spring in your headphones. ‘I’ll always dream for what you want’ swoons Steele, a man clearly revelling in his own spiritual awakening.
‘Sunkids’ perfectly illustrates the twin contradictory passions that powers the tension in The Sleepy Jackson – on one hand it’s dazzlingly uplifting (it’s sung almost entirely by what sounds like a kids choir) on the other it’s hugely unsettling (the constant uneasy chimes, the “I can’t make it on my own” refrain and references to being “crazy”). ‘Lung”s 40-second long paranoid rant (“All the people in the club like laughed at me” Steele barks) is followed by the breathtaking surety of the acoustic guitar and harmonies singalong of ‘Now Your Spirit Drags The Pack’. And as if he’s yearning for classic status already, ‘Caffeine in The Morning Sun’, is a drunken bible-belt sing-a-long that would slot seamlessly onto Neil Young’s ‘After The Goldrush’.
By the ckimax ‘Let Your Love Be Love’ – an after hours anthem to rival ‘Waltzing Matilda’ – Steele’s passions weave together to form a near perfect whole. He flits easily between the collective grin of The Polyphonic Spree and the grimace of Nick Cave. But ultimately it’s the blissfully dippy core message – of just loving, love – that wins out. And if you do that half as much as you’ll love The Sleepy Jackson, the world will be a much better place. Wake up it’s time to become a Sleepy head.