Album Review The Leisure Society - Alone Aboard The Ark3-5 Stars
As has become customary for The Leisure Society, Hemming’s lyrics and gift for storytelling once again stand out.
The Leisure Society are a band with real songwriting pedigree. Their previous albums - 2009’s ‘The Sleeper’ and ‘Into The Murky Water’ released in 2011 - were acclaimed pieces of baroque English folk-pop that not only garnered consecutive Ivor Novello awards, but perfectly established band leader Nick Hemming’s intelligent but charming aesthetic.
Third album ‘Alone Aboard The Ark’ sees them further reaffirming their quaint old-time charms with a release that looks back, while retaining the air of a band who are happily prepared to continue on their own merry way. It was recorded at Ray Davies’ legendary Konk Studios, and a measure of The Kinks’ 60s charm seems to have rubbed off.
There’s a slight widening of the musical palette at work here. Subtle electronics are employed on the skipping melodic lilt of ‘Fight For Everyone’, further enlivened by jaunty horns and handclaps. Elsewhere, there are rockier crunching guitars (‘Tearing The Arches Down’) and jazzy inflections on the curious ‘Life Is A Cabriolet’.
As has become customary for The Leisure Society, Hemming’s lyrics and gift for storytelling once again stand out, his wonderful couplets and warm voice helping to lift many of the weaker moments here above torpor. He is quite the wordsmith, the best evidence of this found in ‘Tearing The Arches Down”s description of a mysterious elusive character, ‘the boy with the bloodshot eyes, a legend in your lunchtime.’ A glimpse at the tracklisting with song titles like ‘One Man And His Fug’, shows his way with a memorable line.
As it progresses, however, the lyrical erudition and quaint ebullience is dragged down as more and more instruments combine to make a grandiose, slightly overwrought crescendo. The string-filled climax of ‘All I Have Seen’ veers perilously close to the theatrical. Far better is the graceful, quite lovely waltz of penultimate track ‘We Go Together’, six minutes of sashaying beauty fully emphasising everything heart warming and good about The Leisure Society at their best.