Sleeper Agent are young, both as a band and as individuals. After forming in 2010, the youngest member of the Bowling green, KY, sextet skipped out on her senior year of high school to go on tour. Their first album, Celabrasion, is the work of a band still finding their identity, but it offers a great first taste of a promising, young pop-rock group.
“Get It Daddy” is the album’s first single, an energetic piece of garage rock that sounds perhaps a little too glossy and overproduced. It’s an odd choice for the single, as there are many stronger tracks on the album, all with a sound that’s much rougher around the edges. It’s as if they were trying so hard to put out a glitzy, commercial single that they scrubbed away much of the charm that makes the other material here so engaging.
“Force a Smile” is an improvement, with the guitars and vocals each receiving a sweet candy coating of fuzzy crunch, like Pains of Being Pure at Heart but less dreamy. “Shuga Cane” takes that added edge even further until everything is distorted and noticeably looser. Singer Alex Kandel does her best Cherie Currie impression, snarling the song’s title to close each chorus.
“Proper Taste” features call-and-response vocals by Kandel and Tony Smith, who share lead duties across the album and have excellent chemistry. This splitting of the vocals between male and female singers is the band’s greatest coup. “That’s My Baby” displays these dual vocals at their best, a sweet, reverb-washed duet that shows that both singers can achieve some depth. This is Sleeper Agent’s secret weapon: If they can exploit the emotional range of each of these voices on future albums, great things will follow.
“Some White Monster” is Celabrasion‘s second big surprise. Far and away the hardest track on the album, Smith’s voice here is a ringer for Jack White’s, while Kandel is put through a vocal workout. The record’s best song manages to come out of nowhere and smack you right in the face.
At their best, Sleeper Agent sound like a bunch of eager, young kids having fun making music, and in the end, isn’t that what rock and roll should be? This first album isn’t perfect, but few are. In the meantime, there’s enough talent on display here to show that Sleeper Agent have the raw ingredients it takes to go places.