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The Gerbils
Are you sleepy
Earworm (LP) / Hidden Agenda (CD)

If you're familiar with the accomodational quality and splendid musical service given by Neutral Milk Hotel, you can just check in at the obliging (menu- and budget-wise) Motel, Inn (or whatever) called the Gerbils. Looking for 3 stars or more? Well, the Gerbils is far beyond that.

Are you sleepy is their first album, or more exactly, a collection of their first two singles plus some other songs (from a tape-only release) recorded between 1995 and 1998. The Gerbils started out as a trio, of Scott Spillane (vocals, guitar, horns), Will Westbrook (guitar, bass, vocals) and John D'azzo (drums, vocals). After releasing Grin b/w Crayon Box (Spare Me Records) and Glue b/w Is She Fiona (Hidden Agenda), drummer Jeremy Barnes joined them for the next recording sessions. Both Spillane and Barnes are also to be found in the excellent Neutral Milk Hotel. And they're all part of the great, big Elephant 6 Recording Co. family, or "collective" as they're called, including NMH, Apples In Stereo, The Olivia Tremor Control, Elf Power, The Music Tapes, and others.

Are You Sleepy isn't a collection of lullabies. I get some eerie feelings of the Gerbils, with their high-pitched vocals and fuzzy instrumentation. The songs are simple styled and raw, but with a huge portion of deadly charm, which makes you grin wildly while listening. Sunshine Soul sets the good mood, bouncing away like a fluffy beach ball. It makes you wanna join in at once, to be part of the amusing game. Next one on is Is She Fiona, which partly reminds me of indie projects like Portastatic and Sebadoh. Not really surprising then to hear the following lines:

What have you done, how could you,
go out and watch the show without me, you know that Portastatic's still my favorite band...
What have I done, how could I do it,
leaving you behind this time,
even if I know that Sebadoh is still your favorite band...

My big fave of the album is called Fluid, and is somewhat a journey "around" the body as an ode to the woman you love, or: the girl of your dreams? So simple and a bit naive, but yet so cute and clever I simply have to quote the entire lyrics. A smashing pop-song.

Your hair curls just like hair, and your skin feels just like skin,
but your eyes are bluer than the oceans of the world, and I want to swim them again.
Your nose smells like a nose, and your ears sound just like ears,
but your lips taste sweeter than the sugar in my spoon, and I want to lick them again.
Your tongue taste like a tongue, and your mouth breathes like a mouth,
but your voice gives me goose bumps when you call my name,
and I want to goose bump again....

OK, I won't give you the last two verses, only tease you by saying that verse 4 takes place on the dance floor with toes and knees and includes the line: "When you dance you're more fluid than a bed-sheet in the breeze...", and the last verse happens in bed. To get the rest you'll simply have to buy the album.

The weird and watery (and long) ambient track Wet Host close side 1 and opens side 2 of the LP, as a strange interlude indeed. The single Glue sticks, of course, like glue, like almost all the songs on Are You Sleepy. Check out Ted Doesn't Mind, or Walnuts, or the echo-chorused Grin. One of 1998's most joyful and pleasing records this one. Lo-fi pop at it's best. I think I'll play Fluid once more before going to bed. Some sweet dreams maybe...

PS! There's also a 3rd single out (on Earworm) with 2 new songs, Lucky Girl b/w Big White Limo. With the new bassist, vocalist Beth Sale, plus - no surprise - musical contributions from more friends from the Elephant 6 collective.

Copyright © 1999 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Gerbils article/review: The Battle of Electricity.

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