Old vs. New (SS.) & Through ‘Til the Morning (HP)
Misra Records, 2013
Review by Kent Manthie
This is a great EP on its own merits. It is a split EP, by two bands from completely different parts of the world – Sleeping States are from Bristol, England and Holopaw come out of Gainesville, Florida. But the one uniting factor is that they both represent “Gay Pride” – what with June being the traditional Pride month, ending with big, festive, creative parades/marches, etc. in an ever-growing number of urban areas around the US. Plus, a portion of the proceeds from this EP is going to a charitable cause for LGBT people. It also comes out in good timing to the recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down the absolutely horrible, bigoted, worthless (like the champions of it) “Defense of Marriage Act” or DOMA, as well as invalidating California’s awful Proposition 8, which took away the rights of gays to marry – a real shock for those who think of CA as THE progressive state, but if you look at the actual numbers, it only succeeded as an initiative because of ultra-low voter turnout – only about 7.5 million voters put it over the top – this from a state with a population of 34 million. The official wording the high court used was that it “had no standing” to be even heard, which, in reality means that, unless somehow the court is overrun with gay-hating bastards, CA is back as one of the still-minority of states that allow gays to legally marry and their decision striking down DOMA (or actually only section 3 of it, but which, effectively nullifies the meat of it) means that these legally married couples will be able to share in the federal benefits enjoyed by hetero married couples. There’s still a way to go, for equality for everyone in this country – in related, civil rights related news, just a day earlier or so, the court struck down a particular section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, one which mandates that a certain list of Southern states with particularly egregious histories of highly racist oppression in all areas of life, including doing everything they could to keep blacks from voting by enacting unfair poll taxes, “literacy tests” that, if a white person didn’t get 100% correct, would still be able to register and if a black person didn’t ace it they’d be denied their franchise. This was a very big embarrassment for the US. It’s a step backwards. So, obviously, it keeps moving on, the fight for equality for all people in this country.
The official title of the EP (although it’s often referred to as the Sleeping States/Holopaw Split EP) is Old vs. New/Through ‘Til the Morning, put out by Misra records.
This 7 song EP is filled, mostly, with quick, fast, bouncy and upbeat pop tunes by Sleeping States and the last tune, Through ‘Til the Morning is a nine-minute suite by Holopaw, which is awesome. It starts out with some experimental twists and turns and after about 2 ½ minutes finds its niche and goes with it, albeit not repetitive or overwrought with simplicity; it does find a niche, but it’s a complex one that fills its nine minutes quite nicely. In certain ways they remind me of fellow Southerners, (Athens, GA) of Montreal, there is some of the same psycho-sexual grooves that Kevin Barnes does, especially when you consider Skeletal Lamping, in my opinion, of Montreal’s peak album. As I wrote, though, even though it’s only one song that Holopaw has on here, the sparseness of material is almost made up by the length of this one tune. It mixes in a multitude of colors, a panoply of varietal microcosms.
Holopaw make a lot of use of the those nine minutes to fill a musical canvas with an expressionist painting of urbane wit and cosmopolitan charm. From New York, to L.A., to Miami and down to South America, they fill it up with a blend of great stuff. Brilliant.
Sleeping States has a slick quality to them; a little different than Holopaw, not as deep, not as textural, but what they do with the style they take on is to stamp their own imprint on it. The first cut, “Planning My Escape” starts out with a bass intro that is reminiscent of Pinback, but does not dwell there. “A Trip to NYC” is an eccentric pop tune that reminds me of Maximo Park, but with more of a carnival-esque background, a side-show sugar rush. “Liberty Feelup” is another sublime pop tune that, like all their stuff on this EP, is not “phoned in”, or a quick toss-off of uninspired numbers that depend on personality instead of standing on their own, anonymously. “Trumpet Calls”, their last number, is a real ice cream novelty tune that glistens; electrifies with the meandering, almost cacophonous but luscious guitar noodling as if it were a kind of icing on the musical cake. I really do hope to hear more from Holopaw, since they seemed to have gotten the short end of the stick here, with one tune only, but that one tune was at least a lengthy one that got a point or two across. I wouldn’t mind seeing either of these bands live. It’s always fascinating to see just how well a band can translate from the studio to the stage. Just get out here to Southern CA! -KM