Sensory Overload: Sleep Fleet

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From the January 10, 2013 edition

“We are Sleep Fleet from here,” went the introduction, but that wasn’t always the case. The Dayton quartet relocated to Columbus last year, and this city is the better for it.

They began with a cover of “Hash Pipe,” a nod to their situation opening for the early-era Weezer cover band The Pinkertones at Kobo. Their run through the “Green Album” hit was pleasant and “ha ha” funny (certainly not LOL funny, though “Beverly Hills” would have been), but it was also superfluous. If any band is stylistically suited to open for a Weezer tribute, it’s Sleep Fleet.

Far more compelling was the next song, a blistering original built on droning octaves, driving bass and rapid-fire percussion, from whence came the most humongous of pop-punk fist-pumpers. We’re talking Andrew WK levels of party power here, if WK was flinging Dinosaur Jr.-worthy sludge piles. The lead vocal was an unhinged rock ’n’ roll yowl, a burlier and more Midwestern answer to Titus Andronicus’ runaway-train nasal bluster. The song eventually morphed into a minimal outro worthy of the angels. Open with that one next time.

The hits kept coming, and I do mean hits. Sleep Fleet understands the power of a thundering wallop tied to a heavenward melody with all your lungs can muster. They also understand how much a little ugliness can amplify the beauty you’re beholding — not a new lesson, but one rarely embraced by musicians of Sleep Fleet’s ilk.

Power-pop, pop-punk, emo, alt-rock revival — whatever you want to call what Sleep Fleet does, their peers in the realm of rambunctious, melodious music are not known for their thoughtful deployment of dissonance. Dreamy aggression at the music’s fringes tends to be the domain of artsier bands or dreadfully dour expansive emotionalists. But aside from pure unbridled energy and the simple pleasures of a memorable hook, what stood out from Sleet Fleet’s set was how well they used discordant guitar parts and searing drones to spin their shout-alongs into sonic tornados.

Their album, Morris Drive, does not sufficiently convey the experience of standing in the front row and being bombarded by Sleep Fleet’s joyous elemental rumble. Fortunately, they live in your city now, so go experience it for yourself.