For years (since 1989 to be exact), Slumberland Records has been on, then off, then pretty spectacularly (if sub-radarly) on again the last couple years. They are nothing if not one of the most sonically consistent indie labels ever, with an undying ear for just-ragged enough angelic vocals over sugar hooks through slightly reverbed fuzzy gits and garage production, if that garage is a clean one, not that cluttered bastard you stare at every Saturday morning before pulling down the door again. And wait—doesn’t that formula sound pretty familiar? Seems they might be one of the most influential labels too.
But again, under the radar, like this fine new Joanna Gruesome record that slipped out a couple weeks ago. After a few singles, Weird Sister is the debut album from this young Welsh five-piece. One can only hope the band moniker is a blatant pun on that annoyingly quirky singer. Maybe too obvious a pun for a British band. So no, this is no droll fey Brit-pop here. Sure, on tunes like Wussy Void and Candy, singer Alanna McArdle’s faintly harmonized vox floats above the trudging fields of buzzing amps and pretty flowers. And even on speedy bashers like Lemonade Grrrl and Anti-Parent Cowboy Killers, you can visualize her head swaying to and fro out of the sunroof while those fields blur past in the background. She will suddenly yalp into a riot grrrl scream for a hot second; and musically, her aggressively deft bandmates never fail to push each tune along, with insta-lovely pop-up lead lines and hard strummed bass always reminding you this band is most probably fueled as much by pub pints as bootleg Ride demos. The endings of Do You Really Wanna Know Why Yr Still in Love with Me? and Sugarcrush run out in a near-hardcore rave-up rush.
Wrapping up an ice cream cold headache of an album like Weird Sister with an acoustic lullaby named “Satan” is a very Slumberland thing to do. Here’s hoping this band and Slumberland keep doing it.