The Leisure Society backstory has some clout: mainman Nick Hemming was once in a band with Britflick luminaries Shane Meadows and Paddy Considine, and later was responsible for the music in two of their films. More recently the band has been nominated for an Ivor Novello award (twice, no less), asked by Mojo to contribute to a collection of Beatles covers (their ‘Something’ was a highlight) and, most impressively, courted for collaboration by King Kink himself, Ray Davies.
For their new album, Alone Aboard The Ark, the Leisure Society have called in the Davies favour, utilising his well-equipped Konk recording studio. This may account in part for the warmth of the songs on this record. The use of vintage instruments gives each track a ‘period piece’ feel, and if at times the band seem not quite sure about which period they are trying to evoke, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The way the musicians feel their way into each song is reminiscent of The Band, although the end product is utterly distinct, due in part to the range of instruments and production techniques on show.
‘A Softer Voice Takes Longer Hearing’, for example, is all retro reverb, with a Belle and Sebastian-style woodwind section in the middle. Opener ‘Another Sunday Psalm’ has a jaunty, almost Donovan-esque lilt. On ‘Tearing The Arches Down’ and ‘All I Have Seen’ the surprise of electric guitars and (on the former) the vocal production sees the band veer unintentionally close to Sparks or Queen territory (particularly early Brian May material!) but without the weirdness or the techy-ness.
Where this album succeeds is in the songcraft of Hemming and Christian Hardy. ‘One Man And His Fug’ harks back to Hemming’s Britpop roots – it is the kind of tune that could have been a hit in the more innocent days of 1995. ‘Forever Shall We Wait’ goes along at a good shuffle. The real high points, though, are the restrained, lyrically mature ‘The Sober Scent Of Paper’, and ‘We Go Together’, a bittersweet tale resting on a feather bed of strings and subtle, jazzy horns.
Alone Aboard The Ark is the sound of a band growing up, the sound of a band who can write an intelligent pop song at the drop of a hat, and the sound of a band emerging from the shadow of famous friends and illustrious pasts.
Review by: Thomas Blake
UK Gig Dates
Fri 12 April – Kazimier, Liverpool
Sat 13 April – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
Sun 14 April – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Mon 15 April – Arts Centre, Norwich
Tue 16 April – The Haunt, Brighton
Wed 17 April – Glee Club, Birmingham
Thu 18 April – Thekla, Bristol
Sat 20 April – King Tuts, Glasgow
Sun 21 April – Deaf Institute, Manchester
Mon 22 April – Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth
Thu 25 April – Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Alone Aboard The Ark is released on Full Time Hobby April 1st, 2013