The Sleeping Souls – ‘Just Before The World Starts Burning’

By Katherine Allvey

It’s impossible to discuss the Sleeping Souls without considering Frank Turner. As they’re better known as the troubadour’s besties, we’ve all forgotten that they’re a band in their own right who are finally ready to release their debut under their own name. The questions needs to be asked – how much of the sound we associate with Turner comes from his touring band? The answer is simultaneously far less and far more than you first thought. While Turner always seemingly has an agenda within each song, a desire to make a statement about the world we live in or where he’s at on his personal journey, the Sleeping Souls seemingly have a much simpler goal in mind; to make music that they enjoy making. 

The initial hype-building singles, ‘Rivals’ and ‘Liar Lover’ are at the more Turner-esque end of the spectrum displayed on ‘Just Before The World Starts Burning’. Based on sibling rivalry and written in the brief moments of downtime they snatched on tour, ‘Rivals’ is a punkish rant, dripping with the immature sentiments spat at family in the grip of a teenage tantrum. It’s got the DIY splinters we associate with the Xtra Mile stable of bands, but also a jump-around indie energy over an elastic bassline. On the other hand, ‘Liar Lover’ is a late night confessional soaked in regret and red wine, and punctuated with piano. The narrator pulls up his bar stool and tells you exactly what he told his ex, apologising if he’s repeating himself while he spills his guts aloud and his drink on your shoes. These two songs are only one aspect of their sound, however, and while it makes sense to display the more recognisable end of their output first to attract new fans, there’s a lot more to the Sleeping Souls than they suggest. 

“I will survive the fallout with you,” dreams vocalist Cahir O’Doherty on ‘Weathering The Storm’, one of the softer tracks on the album. No longer mistaking his house burning down for the dawn, O’Doherty sees the impending collapse of civilisation as just another hurdle in his relationship, like meeting the parents for the first time or going to IKEA together. Relationships feature heavily on their debut release, but not in an immediate, romantic way. They’ve adopted the distanced, storytelling approach used by Turner at the start of his career when he told us that the first girl he fell for was a low and lusty liar. It builds a mature voice that’s very distinct from their better known frontman despite using a similar tactic and establishes them more as documentarians than storytellers, painstakingly putting together their archives of interconnections to music. While Turner likes to paint his music with broad brushstrokes about society and storms, the Sleeping Souls are focusing on the smaller, more intimate pictures, a technique that very much works for them. 

We can definitively say that there isn’t a Turner-shaped hole in this record, and it stands up on its own two feet, bursting with ethereal, Kurt Vile-esque otherworldly piano smoke. ‘Just Before The World Starts Burning’ isn’t the kind of album that can open a festival in the bright, unforgiving lunchtime sunlight though; it’s an album made for late night journeys home, ripe with regret and emotional dissection. It’s also an album for the fans who’ve grown up with the Sleeping Souls without explicitly knowing it, subliminally immersed in their sound since their early status as a touring band. We’re all older now, and more willing to embrace the transitory nature of the human experience as well as the more profoundly crafted experience that the Sleeping Souls can offer as they are now. “We should remember sometimes before we let our lives rush by,” advises O’Doherty on ‘Steal Some Time’, a sentiment which would not have fitted into the kind of music they were making a decade ago.

”I’ve fucked up so many times trying to get these feelings right,” O’Doherty sings regretfully, but the past is behind them and the Sleeping Souls are focusing on the present. Their debut is released at exactly the right time for them, when their sound matches their ages, their fans understand the rush of passing years and they’ve got the confidence to run without hiding behind their frontman. It’s an interesting, dreamlike record that shows there’s far more to the Sleeping Souls than matching suits and tape deck hearts.

KATE ALLVEY

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