Like it or not, but no other band has managed to infiltrate rock’s mainstream in recent times as quickly or noticeably as Sleeping With Sirens. In less than five years, the Floridians have gone from virtual unknowns slogging their way at the bottom of the Warped Tour bill to a true globetrotting force to be reckoned with. Still, even at the stage they’re at now, a cynic would probably claim a live album (let alone an album that’s both live and acoustic) is a bit premature. Live And Unplugged crystalises those expectations with a firm rubber stamp, as this truly is a sorry example of a live album.
Let’s get one thing straight first – there’s a difference between an album being bad and being boring, annoying and plain irrelevant, and Sleeping With Sirens ensure that each of those boxes are ticked with a thick, red pen. For a start, this album did not need to be made in the first place – of the eleven songs featured here, four are less than twelve months old having appeared on last year’s already lacklustre Madness, while three others have already been released acoustically on 2012’s If You Were A Movie, This Would Be Your Soundtrack EP. It makes a good chunk of this album redundant, but even if that wasn’t the case, the songs on here are stripped back in such a way that seem like the most saccharine, deeply empty pieces of music imaginable, all while completely ejecting whatever shred of meaning was present to start with. And for a band that have historically prioritised style over substance, that’s hardly something that works.
To be perfectly fair, there are some moments where Live And Unplugged gets it right. If I’m James Dean, You’re Audrey Hepburn slithers along with its jazzy guitar licks, while Go Go Go manages to pack in some of the pep of its electric counterpart and If You Can’t Hang is surprisingly fully rendered. But apart from that, the songs featured here feel horribly anaemic and seriously lacking in punch. Their version of the Goo Goo Dolls’ Iris is even more cloying and unctuous than the original, and the sugar-encrusted rendition of Gold is so face-screwingly tart it makes Paramore seem like Merzbow by comparison.
Then there’s Kellin Quinn who, when not clogging up songs with his effeminate whinging, sounds like the most uninterested person in the world during his cringeworthy interactions with the crowd at the end of Free Now and Go Go Go. Quite why these are even included is a complete mystery – they offer absolutely zero benefit to the album as a whole, and they don’t help to construct the live atmosphere that this album apparently attempts to establish.
More than anything, Live And Unplugged feels like an incredibly shrewd marketing tool to capitalise on Sleeping With Sirens’ position at the crest of the scene wave. With a fanbase as unwavering and dedicated to the point of obsession as theirs, this album is the perfect way to wring out as many last pennies as possible. It certainly can’t have been intended as anything else – it’s a mediocre album with a couple of decent moments that does no justice to the surprisingly solid live band that Sleeping With Sirens are.
For fans of: Never Shout Never, SayWeCanFly, The Rocket Summer
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Live And Unplugged’ by Sleeping With Sirens is out now on Epitaph Records.