Throwaway Style: Alien Boy Dwells in the Purgatory of a Broken Relationship on Sleeping Lessons

Throwaway Style, Local Music, Album Reviews
Martin Douglas
photo by Sam Gehrke

Throwaway Style is a weekly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the Northwest region, every Thursday on the KEXP Blog.

Pretty much all of us have been through them; the multitude of one-sided conversations we have with our lovers long after they’ve gone. The loneliness, the resentment, the tally marks on the walls. The things you want to say or think you should have said after the final goodbye. Unless breaking up with someone is a cause for celebration – and in some cases, it definitely is – the void left by the person who used to frequently share space with you can be felt in a big way. The songs of Sonia Weber are almost entirely directed at a “you” who is not in the room.

Backing her are the rest of the members of Alien Boy (yes, the band is named after the immortal Wipers song): Drummer and co-founder Derek McNeil, guitarist/backing vocalist Caleb Misclevitz, and bassist Mac Pogue. The band’s songs exist in the center of a triple venn diagram where the circles are post-punk, pop-punk, and tweegaze; a swirl in their guitars and a chewy center in their hooks. Sleeping Lessons, the band’s debut full-length, provides a blurry contrast to the in-the-pocket pop-punk of their earlier singles and EPs. Opening with the oscillating grind of guitar and outstretched choruses of the Stone Roses-referencing “Somewhere Without Me” encapsulates the overarching theme of the album in its five minutes. Increasingly distant memories searing through the hippocampus, hooks for days.

Sleeping Lessons ferries a plethora of styles, all cloaked in a dewy, autumnal haze. “Only Posers Fall in Love” and “Depression” are dark and propulsive, with McNeil’s drums shouldering the rhythmic weight while that which Weber carries is psychological. “If We Don’t Speak,” with its modestly ripping main riff and Weber’s musings on isolation of the body and mind, feels like a tonal cousin to “I Just Can’t Feel It.” “Just Kids” is a swaying prom ballad for all the couples who are doomed to break up on graduation day; the faintly pensive guitars circling around each other, the person Weber sings about who is only affectionate to her in private and sleeps on the far side of the bed. The gratitude of being in love is a commodity all too often unevenly distributed in most relationships, and “Just Kids” is one of those songs which flawlessly capture the feeling of having fallen for someone and subsequently being taken for granted.

Through the journey of various states of rest and a deteriorating relationship, the pair of songs closing out Sleeping Lessons are easily the band’s best. Album highlight and penultimate track “600 Days” chronicles a fresh wound nineteen months in the making, the band reaching their dramatic climax at a measured pace, guitars whining and harmonizing. “You were the best thing,” Weber sings on the song’s indelible chorus, “You’ve always been.” The album’s final song, its title track, plays like the Magnetic Fields covering a deep cut from the Top Gun soundtrack, woozy guitars and tinny drum machines circling in the background while Weber sings of changing the locks on her doors, cross-country drives to take her mind off things, and still not being able to get over it, but at least starting to get some sleep again. She craves the friendship of the person she sings about, reminiscing about the things they loved about her which she wasn’t so sure about. It’s hard to forget when someone who means a lot to you attaches themselves to something inside of you that you don’t really see. Sleeping Lessons is an album-length meditation on the purgatory between breaking up with someone and the gates that lead you to the rest of your life.

New and News

Chris Cornell Statue to Be Unveiled at MoPOP on October 7

To honor the memory of one of the greatest voices ever associated with Seattle, Vicky Cornell commissioned artist Nick Marra to create a bronze sculpture of her dearly departed husband, which is being donated to our neighbors at MoPOP. The unveiling will take place on Sunday, October 7th at 5:30pm. If you'd like more details on the unveiling, MoPOP has information here.

Live and Loud: This Week's Recommended Shows

September 6: Dave B and Bujemane at Fred Wildlife Refuge

September 7: Ruler, Sloucher and BRUCE at Sunset Tavern

September 8: Slow Hollows, Star Meets Sea and Animals in the Attic at The Vera Project

September 9: The Rare Forms, Blood Drugs, Deep Creep and Brain Drain at Chop Suey

September 10: Edmund Wayne, Andrew Victor and Alessandra Rose at Sunset Tavern

September 11: Get Married, Tiny Stills, Four Lights and Sour Notes at Victory Lounge

September 12: Baywitch, Dogbreth and The Worries at Timbre Room

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