Sleeper’s 1995 debut Smart introduced us to Louise Wener and the Sleeperblokes – Jon Stewart, Diid Osman and Andy Maclure. Smart was right at home in the emerging Britpop scene of mid-90s London. People think I’m crazy, but I’ve always preferred Smart to its 1996 follow up The It Girl. The It Girl is a straight forward Britpop record but Smart is something else entirely. It contains elements of punk, post-punk, pop and lo-fi. The songs are fuzzy and well, sound kind of sleepy (pun intended).
Smart’s most commercially successful single was “Inbetweener,” a song that remains a Britpop staple. It lays the groundwork for the sound Sleeper would explore on The It Girl. The rest of the album is more Elastica than Echobelly.
There’s a lot of sex on Smart. “Bedhead” and “Delicious” both chronicle time in bed with a lover. “Swallow” – well, I think we all know what that song is about! Conversely, Smart‘s other tracks tackle everything from female bullying (“Alice In Vain”) to casino lounge singers (“Vegas”). “Lady Love Your Countryside” is the album’s quintessentially British track fitting in perfectly with the English love affair that permeated the Britpop scene.
Smart doesn’t receive enough love. These days, Sleeper have mostly been relegated to the back of the public’s conscience and appear only in Britpop retrospectives. However, Smart has aged surprisingly well compared to many other records from that era. I know I’m the only journalist that has probably ever and will probably ever make this comparison, but on Smart Sleeper sounds like an English band interpreting Hüsker Dü with a heavy emphasis on pop sensibilities. Make of that what you will.
Give Smart another listen for old time’s sake and I think you might find that even so many years after its release, it still holds up.