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Cambridge, Corn Exchange (20 May 1996) MCP Presents

Cambridge, Corn Exchange
Date:  20 May 1996
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Publisher: MCP Presents


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    Cambridge, Corn Exchange (20 May 1996)
    MCP Presents

    From fudge_and_frisk, via Inbetweener
    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 something?

    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 with music.

    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 distinct.

    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 to stardom.

    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.

    When she's through with her affirmative stories of pebbledash driveways and Vegas dreams she Harry-Met-Sally fakes and 'Oh oh oh' climax on 'Alice' and heads for the bar to get a bit tipsy and remember how she grew up on Witpop and the charts - the kind of things critics wouldn't approve of, but your mum definitely would.