Friday, February 09, 2024

The Sleeveens - self titled

I knew The Sleeveens were something special within thirty seconds of hearing them for the very first time. Here was a band that was totally up my alley yet absolutely unique and original. The singer was a a poet and a presence. The band had chops for days. The music had power and guts but also made me want to sing along and get up and dance. "Give My Regards To The Dancing Girls" struck me as an instant classic and a true anthem of our times. I was immediately left wanting more, and thankfully I didn't have long to wait. Out today on Dirtnap Records, the self-titled debut album from The Sleveens is the best punk rock record I've heard in a damn long time. It will delight fans of classic British and Irish punk rock, yet it feels fully fresh and current in the year 2024.  

The Sleeveens were born when Irish songwriter Stef Murphy (Count Vaseline/The Mighty Stef) and Stiff Little Fingers guitar tech Jamie Mechan met in Nashville, Tennessee and immediately formed a musical partnership. With the addition of Ryan Sweeney (Cheap Time) and Eli Steele (Sweet Knives), the band's lineup became complete. The group wasted little time establishing itself as a formidable live act, and "Give My Regards To The Dancing Girls" was released to tremendous acclaim on Sweeney's Cheap Time Records. The full album will quickly dispel any speculation that the brilliance of the single was some kind of beginners' luck. Murphy, a gifted songwriter with a background in a number of musical styles, brings something different to the '77 punk rock 'n' roll style. 

The Sleveens will no doubt bring to mind the heyday of record labels like Chiswick, New Rose and Stiff Records along with hints of early Clash and Stiff Little Fingers. But those broad influences are just one part of a sophisticated musical identity. No two songs sound alike, and The Sleeveens prove themselves adept at everything from punchy pub rockers to aggressive punk rippers to heartfelt ballads to pure pop songs. Recut for the album, "Give My Regards To The Dancing Girls" is sped-up and stripped to its essence — yet no less of an anthem. "Metallica Font," the album's second advance single, is a powerful ode to friendship and a blistering slab of rock 'n' roll. In a perfect world, "Aretha Franklin" would go viral and prompt the masses far and wide to adopt "Pissing in the eyes of your racist uncle!" as their new mantra. "Dry Cider," a nearly six-minute slow-burn, meets every definition of an epic. "Glory Holes" combines the creativity of post-punk with the speed and force of hardcore. "Tales from the Megaplex" channels the fury of first generation street punk in a fully modern context. "Paulie Says" is the kind of perfect pop song all great punk bands ought to be able to write. Oh, and there's an Undertones cover as well!

On their full-length debut, The Sleeveens deliver a bulletproof release. I can't find a sub-par track, and different songs emerge as favorites every day depending on my mood. Murphy's lyrics are some of the best I've heard in recent rock 'n' roll — and when he sings, there's no question he means every word. Dirtnap Records is no stranger to consequential albums in the modern punk universe, and it has another game-changer on its hands with The Sleeveens. Of course those hooks can't be denied, and this band rocks like a motherfucker. Beyond that, this is music that's life-affirming, exciting, and full of passion. Something tells me I won't lose much sleep trying to decide on a number one album of 2024.

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