The Sleeping

The Big Deep

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The gradual dissolution of the lines that separate punk, hardcore, arena rock, emo, indie rock, and guitar rock from each other has made life harder for music writers, but richer and more interesting for everyone else. So it would be churlish to complain that the Sleeping makes uncategorizable music; really, who cares? What matters is the hooks, and the hooks on The Big Deep are plenty good enough. They're not the usual kind, though: there are no real singalong choruses, no clever lines, no obvious catch phrases. Instead, what you get is richly layered rock & roll that draws on punk, metal, emo, and the more melodic fringes of hardcore to create a sound that is emotionally compelling without being sappy or exploitative, and musically compelling without being exactly tuneful. Singer Doug Robinson brings to mind a cross between Bono and the Cure's Robert Smith (especially on the aggressively mopey "Phantom of Darker Clouds"), while the band's sound alternates between arena-sized guitars, scrappy and crunchy punk guitars, and keyboard passages that can startle you with their variety and occasional tenderness (a bloopy Rhodes piano here, a vinegary vintage synth there). The real moments of triumph come during songs like "Retired Spies (Change Your Life)" and the brilliant title track, which manage somehow to be elegantly loud while treading the line between punky pop/rock and screamo gracefully. When the band stumbles, it's usually because the music is too big for the lyrical conceit (check out the awkward "Get You Back," for example). But even when the music's disparate elements fail to gel into a fully cohesive whole, those elements never fail to be interesting.

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