It’s a frantic and explosive start, but not even Loz Taylor and co can keep that energy level up. And, as it happens, that’s not their intention this time out. The album is jaw-dropping in places, but not always because it’s harder, heavier or more intense than anything they’ve done before. While Anti-Social sounds like all the familiar ingredients forced through a blender with a few surprises thrown in for good measure, other tracks get busy redefining the Sleeps sound, as well as providing a perfect platform for the album’s overriding theme of perseverance and fighting on in the face of trouble and adversity.
You can picture Loz leaning into the crowd and leading an audience through the huge, roof-raising sing-along of Gates Of Paradise, but elsewhere they’ve gone the extra mile with a full choir that truly lifts the likes of The Guilty Party and Set You Free. Guitarist Mat Welsh had already started to have more of a vocal input on You Are We, and his clean lines play more of an integral part here, weaving around Loz’s harsher bark. There are more textures, more lilting guitar passages, more electronic elements, more everything.
There are plenty of riff-heavy body-slams and fiery, politicised lyrics, but this is a shinier, more melodic, accessible and sonically polished affair than its predecessors. That won’t appeal to everyone, certainly, but accusations of chasing mainstream acceptance clearly don’t apply to a band that has made a virtue out of independence and built the very studio this was recorded in with their own blood, sweat and a shitload of concrete. And who are, crucially, still heavier than a steel cow.
Last time out, WSS broke into the UK Album Top 10 – quite the feat for a fan-funded album released on their own Sleeps Brothers label. SO WHAT? has the potential to take them even further. It’s While She Sleeps as you’ve never quite heard them before, and the most exciting this band have been since that first encounter with them.