In a musical landscape as precarious as it currently is, it’s important to look at the current crop of buzz bands with added scrutiny. Admittedly the industry and media have gotten better at choosing which bands will really push the boat out, but it’s hard to believe that money still isn’t the determining factor with so many of them, particularly when the output spectacularly fails to match the hype. It’s reached a point now where these bands are almost being set up for a fall; increased exposure means increased expectations, and if they aren’t met when their important release arrives (no matter how good it might otherwise be), they’ll be branded as a failure and pushed aside to make way for the next unwitting group to have the cycle repeat all over again.
If that all sounds very pessimistic, it’s because it is, but when the scale of quality these days seems to be the greatest thing ever released or a total failure with nothing in between, the lines between critical thinking and pessimism are blurred to virtual non-exististence. The point is, a lot of the bands who find themselves dropped off simply don’t deserve it; just because they haven’t hit perfection on the first try doesn’t meet they don’t deserve to be kept around. That’s unfortunately the projected path for Sleep On It going off of Overexposed, a debut that attempts to capitalise on the resounding successes of their handful of EPs, and while this mightn’t be the rip-roaring monster that so many wanted, it does enough on its own merits to ensure that Sleep On It might have something great to offer down the line.
It’s worth acknowledging why this is the case first, and it’s primarily due to the genre limitations that this sort of downbeat, modern pop-punk has, and how the overlap between Sleep On It and other bands in their scene can lead to spots of over-familiarity. The biggest comparison in this sense is Real Friends, and how Sleep On It fall into the same pitfalls of playing so rigidly to their formula that certain songs blur together, particularly towards the end following the already played-out acoustic ballad archetype of A Brighter Shade Of Blue. As well as the opening guitar line of Always Crashing The Same Car which is almost identical to As It Is’ Patchwork Love and the sweeping crescendos of Photobooth which have more than a bit of The Gospel Youth to them, Overexposed feels more like a collection of ideas rather than something that establishes a fully-formed identity for Sleep On It just yet.
But even with that being said, there’s still a lot left to like about this album, also stemming from the modern pop-punk playbook that Sleep On It are already very well-versed with. A key factor for this is how open and natural this album feels, buoyed by Seth Henderson’s production carried over from his work with Knuckle Puck and Real Friends, and giving a thicker crunch and emo-style swell to tracks like Distant and Autumn (I Wish I Was Better). It also helps that Sleep On It know how to do a lot with what they have, and even if this isn’t an album that hinges particularly heavily on technique, it’s channeled into truly excellent moments of euphoria like on A New Way Home or Fireworks.
Where Overexposed takes itself over the top is in its handle of emotion, and while that alone is another fairly commonplace feature of pop-punk of this stripe, like The Gospel Youth before them, it’s Sleep On It’s delivery that argues a far more compelling case. As a vocalist, Zech Pluister has a huskier, more fluid tone than many of his contemporaries, and in acting as a vehicle for more bracing emotional narratives, as well as greater detail in the writing, Overexposed‘s best moments hit with the pathos that’s become such an important part of this genre. Even if Window and Photobooth boil down to little more than laments over a failed relationship, the abundance of darker tones and melancholic atmosphere is a far easier sell in terms of getting across real sincerity and heartache, and Sleep On It have already put their best foot forward.
All of that together adds up to a debut that definitely exudes promise, even if Sleep On It need to find their own way to fully live up to it instead of hanging on the coattails of others. That’s easier said than done, but it’s a necessity if they want to get any further. Overexposed shows them as having almost every other piece in the right place – a keen ear for melody; a standout vocalist; writing with personality that remains grounded in believable realism – but for what Sleep On It could achieve, this ever so slightly falls short. Still, there’s been a lot worse than this in 2017, and even amid the slew of similar acts looking to establish themselves as solidly as the big players, Sleep On It do enough to keep themselves a couple of paces ahead.
For fans of: As It Is, Real Friends, The Gospel Youth
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Overexposed’ by Sleep On It is released on 3rd November on Rude Records.