Browsing the racks in Magpie Records, Worcester circa 1992 I came across a piece of vinyl by Blessed Ethel, a local band which had been played on John Peel. At that moment, Worcester had a scene. Deliverance by The Sleeves give the same sense of an actual scene in Hong Kong, and bands making slick studio recordings in a lush tangible format.
One of the three breakthrough Hong Kong bands, gaining international radio play in 2018, Deliverance is what I would call an elevated recording. “Deliverance” is the band’s second album and altogether more cohesive than “Arcade Rock” which was composed by different line-ups. The Sleeves’ musical influences are readily apparent, this is unmistakably a British guitar-driven rock band but the songs and compositions are fully developed and distinctive enough to place The Sleeves shoulder to shoulder with their contemporaries.
From the start, “Dance Floor” has the immediacy of a Franz Ferdinand track but despite the crowd-appeal and Side A track 1 position, it’s not the strongest track on the album. The second track gives a clearer representation of what The Sleeves are all about. “Freedom Now” forges funk, ska with Hendrix style riffs, climaxing with 50 seconds of fast work on the high frets. At this point “Deliverance” gels as an album, leading into “Broken Key”. “Broken Key” is significantly more complex in structure, Keith Goodman’s vocals giving space for the tight interplay of drums and bass, Goodman’s vocal leading to a majestic guitar solo before the reprise.
“Never Let Me Go”, is packed full of energy splicing DNA from Motorhead and The Clash in exhilarating guitar work. The drumming is a highlight throughout the album, “Girl” perhaps slightly too prominently, but never enough to detract from the song which is instantly identifiable. Tracks like “I Feel Alive” is sync worthy, the tribal intro giving way to a particularly anthemic track punctuated with arpeggios and delicate textures.
Side B opens with The Menace exploring psychedelia, with elements of Steppenwolf, The Byrds and Hawkwind in its composition and soundscape. “Rumble (Inside My Head)” dramatically shifts pace and is a standout track on the album. “The Horror” is dark and grooving, digging deep into blues rock with menacing vocal. “Angel of the North” is epic in it’s composition and theatrics. Bass and drums are mixed perfectly here, driving it along perfectly. The album closes with “Old Jag” which is unmistakably British.
So, there is a scene in Hong Kong with bands playing original songs. You can see The Sleeves live at H2 at The Wanch on Friday 29thJune at 10pm.
Deliverance deserves a place in your vinyl collection next to The Killers, The Stone Roses, The Strokes, Sonic Youth, The Clash, Hendrix, Kasabian, Franz Ferdinand, The Kinks. You can hear selected tracks A-listed in rotation on Radio Lantau, and pick up the album on vinyl at Vibes in Mui Wo, and other good places in Hong Kong. Digital download is available from CD Baby.