CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TUNE (20 May 1996, Cambridge, Corn Exchange)
Cambridge Corn Exchange
Picture caption: "And when you're this tall, girls, you can start dressing like
me"; Ms Wener dishes out some sound maternal advice.
Picture credit: Roger Morton
OH GOD, it's mummy. Actually it's not just one mother figure suspended up
there onstage, it's five maternal stand-ins parading in swimming costumes
and posing absurdly. The Sleeper backdrop is a towering row of '60s
cardboard ladies blown up from the photo on their recent 'The It Girl' album.
When the lights go out the quaint, de-sexed, traditional value swimsuits light
up light Christmas decorations. Ever get the feeling Louise is trying to tell us
There she stands between the surrogate suburban mums and the kids from
the Cambridge 'burbs, bathing in the warm waters if mutual, communal
recognition. When she bounds onstage tonight, to the sound of polite frenzy,
Louise is wearing a skinny-strapped vest with no bra. Half the girls in the
audience are wearing the same thing, only with the bra straps showing.
Younger, less urbane, they haven't quite got the fashion thing down, but one
day, with a bit of help from mum figure Louise, they'll be there.
Music? Bah. Sleeper sell 130,000 albums of, merely, sprightly pop tunes with
zero critical approval, and the reasons they do it are only vaguely connected
Let's see. The exuberant clangor of 'Dress Like Your Mother' kicks off and the
expanded Sleeper line-up of interchangeable indie-boys (now with extra
guitarist and keyboards) fall into place behind Ma Wener. She smiles like
deodorant. She leaps around like someone who doesn't have to play guitar
on all the songs any more. And she sings like your sister in the bath.
All is familiar and cosy in Sleeper's pop kitchen. 'Lie Detector' has a bit of an
Elastica twang. 'Sale of the Century' is on intimate sonic terms with both Blur
and The Smiths. Everything has an efficient cream-puff chorus, which is
delivered like Debbie Harry doing the dishes and driven on by the fully
competent jangle-with-attitude of the band. But nothing grabs at your
attention. Nothing lunges at your primal senses, beyond a mild tingle
afforded by a hook line that you might whistle on the bus.
Louise by contrast is busy describing something very specific and strangely
potent. She eyes the crowd lovingly. She rearranged a stray lock of hair.
"This is for everyone who didn't want to get up this morning and go to work,"
she says introducing the tale of humdrum weekly routine that is 'Feeling
Peaky' and as she does so her cardboard everygirl outline grows a little more
Sleeper are a pop ordinaire affirmation and they know it. That's why
'Inbetweener' and 'Delicious', and even the rockier 'What Do I Do Now?', are
tied by twanging apron strings to the polite consensuality of last year's pop.
That's why Louise, 'Smart' girl that she is, remember, is happy to play in the
space that exists between the ironing board and the imaginary escape route
Only on 'Shrinkwrapped' does she sound passionate. For the rest she stands
between cut-outs and kids and perfectly articulates the tension between fear
of losing your parents and fear of becoming them.