Ask any casual listener whose ears have been spoiled by the gloss of mainstream recordings what they think of “Happy Guilty,” the opener of The Sleepyheads’ third album, Avant Garage: Wrecknroll and their answer shouldn’t be far from this: “Ang gaspang.”[firstpara]
It is. The lo-fi aesthetics boldly announce their presence from the get-go.
It’s uneven and proudly rough-on-the-edges, like some scraggly ringleader of some bike gang.
But while it may sound like that, we wouldn't describe the record as lacking in polish. The rawness of Avant Garde is part of its appeal.
Unpretentiously indie, we’d call it; a record that shows its charms after a couple of listens.
If not the fuzzy guitars bubbling under the surface, “The Schopenhauer Soother (Bone Seducer)” and its mad-dash drum beat should get you bobbing as the singer goes “Live so much, die all the time!”
The next track, “I Want To Live” mellows it down a little to match the song’s reflective lines: “I want to live/ My soul must not be sick/ I want to beat hostility and hardship.”
Amidst the jangly guitar-playing, the lively drumming, and wobbly bass lines, you'd get the sense that the trio is just rockin’ out, but the issues that the band tackles aren’t superficial at all. “Save Me From Manila” and “Crazy World” are—dare we say it— partly existential in nature.
“I’m a carabao there, a human being here in Cambodia/ Save me from Manila” goes the former. The latter is even more desperate: “Crazy moving, crazy world, I can’t live; life itself hurts/ You’re either led to boredom, burden or death.”
Though the themes seem heavy, the band never makes it a point to be too furrowed-brows serious. In fact, the band’s punk attitude shines through, thanks to the irreverence and honesty they bring forth to the table when dealing with issues of love and existence.
“Your Beauty (Is My Problem),” a folksy ditty about admiration, goes "Why is this love so painful and sweet/ My heart bangs its head whenever you I meet?" Meanwhile, “Stick with the Enemy” a fast, rockin' and rollin' garage tune, deals a little about “ungrateful lovers” and musings about being a masochist for romance.
Our favorite track though is "Fifty-teen," which just might be our poster boy for this album. It goes "Fifty year old teenager! High school heaven's still there!" which is exactly the kind of attitude that the album carries: lively, and fun, in spite of factors that might have caused otherwise.