With an unswerving sense of confidence borne out of the unexpected underdog triumph of the crowd-funded ‘You Are We’ breaking into the UK top ten, While She Sleeps ignore the easy temptation of just re-packaging the same present in different wrapping. ‘SO WHAT?’, their fourth studio album, instead sees them perform the trick of flexing new muscles and moving into new territory while still losing nothing that made them so vital in the first place.
Suitably for a band that name-checked Daft Punk as a major influence on this record, early single ‘ANTI-SOCIAL’ begins with a faint electronic hum that is slowly overtaken by a riff - gentle at first, before an immediate escalation of power. It’s something new, yet something equally familiar from the Sheffield band. With a barrel-load of anthemic, soaring choruses, it is easily their most accessible release to date and another shift away from their metalcore origins. But as the thundering ‘ELEPHANT’ or the globe-shattering crescendo to ‘INSPIRE’ shows, they have lost none of their potency or ribcage-rattling power.
A sense of fatigue or exhaustion runs through much of the lyrics here, as well as the realisation that, after most of the band turned thirty, time is ticking on. That gives it an urgency, a sense of restlessness that carries through much of the record - whether it is the restless spirit that drives future single ‘THE GUILTY PARTY’ through its various tempo changes, or the genuine creative interest that provides much of the album with its subtle ‘Tron’ vibes - those Daft Punk comparisons not looking quite so, well, daft now. It’s a piece of work from a band who are not yet at the peak of their powers, eyeing up the next mountain to climb and finding it well within their reach to keep on going.