The second in my occasional series of albums that have meant something to me.
Again these are not in-depth thoughts of a music writer. I’m not going to explore anything technical or write in the way the established music press writes about it.
The idea of these is simply to share music with people I know, or perhaps those I do not, in the hope they hear something they’ve not heard before. Maybe it’ll remind them of good times or of music they’ve forgotten.
Album: The It Girl
Runtime: 45 minutes
- Lie Detector
- Sale Of The Century
- What Do I Do Now
- Good Luck Mr. Gorsky
- Feeling Peaky
- Shrink Wrapped
- Dress Like Your Mother
- Glue Ears
- Nice Guy Eddie
- Stop Your Crying
- Factor 41
I’ll say now this album has been a favourite since I was 16 years old in the year it was released. A former school friend of the time introduced me to them. Disappointingly, 3 years later he walked away from me mid-conversation and we never spoke again. But that didn’t change how I loved this album.
To some it probably seems odd that teenage boy would like what is basically indie pop with guitars, with a female singer, but I didn’t care then and I don’t care now. They are good songs that stay with you and Sleeper were an integral part of a wider Britpop movement. Yet sometimes I think they get forgotten, unfairly so. They are just as much the sound of 1995-1997 as Blur or Oasis or Pulp or the Charlatans.
Over the years I’ve gone away from this album and come back. And every time I come back it sounds as fresh as it did in 1996. And I always wonder why I left it so long.
It has the iconic hit anthems Sale Of The Century, What Do I Do Now, and Statuesque. Yet most of the rest of the songs on the album are just as good and I wish they were as popular.
She’s got green eyes and she’s lovely
Reminds me of the ‘it’ girl with her lips
Stop it, you’re a grown man baby it’s just that your head’s no good.
Lie Detector is so simple yet effective, what a great opener. It’s very much a continuation of the style of Smart but perhaps evolved a bit, a sign of what’s to come.
With track 2 we get into the signature sound of the album. Sale Of The Century has the guitar and bass sound, along with the keyboards & electronic parts introduced, all hallmarks for this album. It sounds better-produced than the work on Smart and much bigger as a result. And the electronic side adds to it, it doesn’t overwhelm.
And “you said I was cheap, you were the sale of the century” is still a brilliant lyric.
Its still you –
Taking me under
We turn to be scared…
Then decide that we don’t care
Wear ourselves out on the way down
Its still you –
And the moment you left me you said I was cheap –
You were the sale of the century
Sale Of The Century
Two of the big singles back-to-back, two of the three (or four?) knockout songs on the album, in the sense “if you think Sleeper, you think this song”. What Do I Do Now was actually released as a single in 1995, the same year as the final single from the previous album.
It’s a great song about the impending end of a relationship that she doesn’t want to end.
What do I do now then, are we going under?
What did I do wrong? I thought we had it sorted
Is there someone else, or am I too familiar?
Was it when I said I wanted to have children?
Tore up all your photos, didn’t feel too clever
Spent the whole of Sunday sticking you together
Now I’d like to call you, but I feel too awkward
Some things need explaining
No one told me it was raining
What Do I Do Now
It then moves into the somewhat odd Good Luck Mr. Gorsky which famously grew out of the story circulating in the mid-1990s, that when Neil Armstrong was a child playing in the back yard, he overheard his neighbour Mrs Gorsky say she’ll only give Mr Gorsky a blowjob when the kid next door walks on the moon. Once on the moon Neil Armstrong says ‘Good luck Mr. Gorsky’.
Unfortunately Snopes has debunked it but it’s still a funny story, probably stemming from a routine in a comedian’s act.
The next three I like but don’t have a lot to say about really. They are not filler, they’re better than a lot of people’s non-single album tracks, and help the album’s flow. Feeling Peaky has a quirky sound reminiscent of the previous year’s Blur album, The Great Escape. Shrink Wrapped starts slow-paced then gains energy. And I like Dress Like Your Mother but don’t have a lot to say about it.
Statuesque is obviously one of their big anthems. It only reached no.17 in the UK charts but I would argue it had as big effect as the other singles in that massive indie wave of the time.
We should spend the night in a small hotel like this
Drinking champagne in it
We could drive your car through the east end streets to the city
And still make a day of it
Take all I have I’ve no secrets left to steal
What would you give me for a trip behind your steering wheel
This is followed by Glue Ears, most of which never struck me, until the last minute and a half when that that brilliant guitar riff kicks in! It stays in your head for days! So good. I don’t know how to play but it seems one of those things that’s simple but effective.
Nice Guy Eddie had decent chart success, no.10 in the UK which I definitely don’t remember, and it was played live on iconic TV show TFI Friday. My perception is the song never sank in culturally like the other big-name songs on this album, it never appears on any retrospectives and I don’t remember it getting radio play at the time and I remember being disappointed by that. If it did it would be among the indie kids, but not more widely. I may be wrong. It’s a really good indie pop song. The breathless last double verse in particular.
And I said
Hey love I’m making it easy on us
I’ll leave and a few of our dreams turn to dust
All night making love on your sofa
And it may sound funny but he wasn’t supposed to
Summer ’92 I remember it clearly
When he choked on the olive in his dry martini
There was dismay from friends he was close to
And it may sound funny but it wasn’t supposed to be
Nice Guy Eddie
The final three songs are album tracks not singles. I think two of them could’ve been candidates for singles had the ones chosen as singles not been there.
Stop Your Crying could’ve been a Smart song had it been recorded a little differently. It’s a really good song about leaving someone. Reading the lyrics now as I write this gives me a whole new appreciation for it. I’m not good at listening out for lyrics and they ‘go in’ easier when I read them.
Pulled me in on a high tide
How well you hid your flipside
It won’t do to comfort you
Each time you cough or call
You think I wanted to use you
Complex issues just confuse you
You don’t care you’re unaware
How far these things can fall
Stop Your Crying
I love the chorus of Factor 41.
I’m not afraid of you you’re very nice in fact
Now give me all your cigarettes
These little love attacks
Are making me feel queasy
Can’t get my heart rate down
And it ends with Click..Off..Gone, which even though it sounds like a chilled out song which is a nice way to close an album the words are pretty sad.
I love this album. For a ’90s indie kid it is right up there with Blur, Oasis, Stereophonics, Elastica and so on. Sleeper were an important part of the resurgence of British bands in the middle-90s, the Britpop/Indie scene from 1994 to 1997. And an important British female voice in a time when it felt like most of the female voices were in RnB out of the US. But I feel those other bands get all the credit.
There are anthemic songs, there are iconic songs, there are not well known songs. I think the standard across The It Girl is higher across the board than on Smart. Some would say Inbetweener from the first album remains a higher peak. I think What Do I Do Now and Statuesque at least match it if not surpass it.
The lyrics are simple yet clever, with a hidden depth it might take a few listens to uncover. The first few times you’re busy caught in the melodies of the catchy tunes.
Is it revolutionary? Not really. What they do is effective, rock-based indie pop music. There are electronic / synth / keyboard bits which absolutely develop the sound over the previous record, but they don’t dominate, they are almost incidental yet without them something would be missing. And that’s very clever. A decade later other guitar bands would find keyboards and synths again and it would dominate their music.
A lot of the indie music of the time was not technically brilliant but it did have a particular sound and as a combined force across multiple bands it represented a generation.
I’m absolutely looking through the rose-tinted lenses of a fan of the band, of being an indie kid in 1996/1997. And there’s nothing wrong in that.