As far as the modern pop-punk hype-sphere goes, Sleep On It are the perfect example of how mistreated these bands can be by an overall fickleness within the scene pushing what’s new over what’s good. Up to and including their debut album Overexposed, it genuinely felt as though Sleep On It could do no wrong, pushed as the pop-punk’s bold new voice going forward in a way that could have easily opened so many doors going forward. But then they just seemed to be unceremoniously dropped for no real reason; Overexposed wasn’t necessarily the classic it was willed to be, but as far as heartfelt, gimmick-free pop-punk goes, it still has a number of cuts that definitely hold up. But despite that, Sleep On It appear to be running on their own at this point, but that’s not inherently a bad thing. There’s more freedom that comes from that, for one, and for a band who’ve often been a refreshingly organic alternative in a genre that’s consistently sliding towards the gaping maw of overworked and underweight crossover fare, the ability to stick to their guns so staunchly is undeniably a blessing.
What’s even better is that Sleep On It have indeed stuck to that on Pride & Disaster, making for a tremendously simple pop-punk album, but one that’s able to soar on the strength of hook-craft and clarity of melody alone. That on its own is generally expected from pop-punk in all fairness, but Pride & Disaster simply feels bigger and willing to press the right nostalgia buttons a lot more readily than it’s contemporaries, and while that very clearly hits its mark by completely sidestepping most critical faculties, it’s hard to care when the results are this strong. Not since perhaps State Champs’ The Finer Things has an album so gloriously embraced pop-punk classicism to such an extent, and Sleep On It knock it out of the park for doing so.
The immediate difference that raises the bar with this album in particular is Zach Pluister as a vocalist, who brings tones not too unlike Brendan Urie in their bombast and brazen theatricality, but slightly eased back to make room for a warmth that comes more naturally in the slight emo inflections of the guitars. It naturally hits, largely because it’s been proven too many times in the past, but the richness in melody that Sleep On It bring just notches their take up by enough of a margin to make a difference, right from opener Racing Towards A Red Light that establishes a formula of slobberknocker choruses that always seem to hit. It’s the pleasing sense of instrumental crunch that does a lot of good, too; hints of a cleaner palette do pop up in sprinklings of synth or the glistening pianos on the extended outro of Lost & Found, but they’re embellishments at best, and even if they are generally perfunctory, they’re not to any detriment. Sleep On It have one of the strongest melodic foundations going here thanks to instrumental drive alone, and when that’s so laser-focused on hooks for Babe Ruth, After Tonight, Logan Square, or really, every track here, that has real potency, especially when they breeze by so effortlessly and have as little flab as they do.
It’s unquestionably a step up from their debut, and feels locked enough into a classic sense of pop-punk flair that the lyrics don’t need to be too deep or thought-provoking. That’s not to say they’re throwaway, but rose-tinted throwbacks to youth and childhood is about as well-worn as it gets, even for an album that’s clearly riffing on those conventions. That said, it’s a good fit for what Sleep On It are doing, and like with everything else here, Pride & Disaster hits the nail on the head for pretty much all it’s going for with remarkable precision. There’s joy that comes in the reminiscences of After Tonight and Logan Square that lock so tightly with their laser-focused melodies, but there’s also a number of bittersweet angles tackled, whether that’s a not-always-easy process of moving on from an ended relationship on The Cycle Of Always Leaving, or acknowledging that those memories are just memories and moving forward is necessary on Racing Towards A Red Light and Under The Moment. It’s a simple but multifaceted approach that teeters on the line of big, crowd-pleasing pop-rock and pop-punk’s more mature and thoughtful strains, and even if it’s easier to see how Sleep On It lean closer and more often towards the former, it feels like the right measures have been taken for a healthy balance that’s not always achieved.
Honestly, it all adds up to an example of how pop-punk doesn’t need to be a mould-breaking experience to be something great, and right now, Sleep On It are amongst the best in the game taking that route. It’s an unashamed throwback, sure, but when it’s handled with this much care and clear passion, it’s the best kind, and one that Sleep On It are able to leverage to get results that genuinely stand out, especially among the genre’s bigger players currently being monopolised and weighed down by unwanted pivots towards the overly synthetic. By comparison, Pride & Disaster feels liberated and energetic, and that’s shown by just how resoundingly Sleep On It hit their stride early on and rarely falter. It’s just a purely great, classic pop-punk album, and when there’s been a dearth of those for so long, it makes you realise how much that’s needed.
For fans of: State Champs, New Found Glory, Stand Atlantic
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Pride & Disaster’ by Sleep On It is released on 13th September on Rude Records.