It’s just over half a decade since Nick Hemming, Christian Hardy and their joint venture ‘The Leisure Society’, first garnered attention with their startlingly good debut ‘The Sleeper’, an opulent collection of laboriously crafted compositions yielding a brace of Ivor Novello nominations. Their next two albums ‘Into the Murky Water’ and ‘Alone Aboard the Ark’ both graced the charts and they’ve attracted numerous admiration from notable peers along the way including Brian Eno, Ray Davies (whose studios the band utilized for ‘Alone Aboard the Ark’) and Guy Garvey.
Long-player number four, ‘The Fine Art of Hanging On’, released again on Full Time Hobby, sees the band returned to Mr Davies’ Konk Studios, the resulting eleven songs maintaining the high production values and elaborate compositions whilst exploring the theme of perseverance in the face of adversity. As we open with the title track, it’s as if the band have never been away as gently strummed guitar and warming brass bring a smile to the face once more, a summery blanket to help banish those last remaining traces of Winter blues. ‘Nothing Like This’ follows, a shimmering slice of retro-sounding pop in its purest form, round off nicely with a smattering of flute, and even the odd hand-clap not sounding out of place.
‘Tall Black Cabins’ marks a darker shift in tone, an elegiac ode to the dying trade of single boat fishermen, perhaps reminding the odd listener of Swan Swan H. ‘The Undefeatd Ego’ also starts in a somewhat pedestrian manner, building throughout and brought to a close by a splendid little dab of Wurlitzer organ. ‘Outside In’ picks up the pace once again with beautifully understated fuzzy guitar, only this band could pull that off. ‘I’m a Setting Sun’ is more ambitious, twisting and turning into a 4-minute three-part pop mini-musical, sounding like an old 78 at the start, turning into a more straightforward rocker in the middle, and ending with a bum-wiggling calypso-tinged shuffle.
The final third of material is a more downbeat affair starting with, ‘You Are What You Take’ sombre, acoustic folk with elements of music hall. We then drift into the effortless pirouettes of ‘You’ll Never Know When It Breaks’ and ‘All Is Now’. Penultimate song ‘Wide Eyes At Villains’ sees the band go all Beatle-y, especially in the middle eight but don’t let that put you off because the results send you breathlessly soaring skywards. ‘As The Shadows Form’ brings proceedings to a close, a cheery strum with a bit of trumpet thrown in for good measure, belying the darker tone of this and the other songs on this super little record.
Words - Mike Price
Released on April 13th via Full Time Hobby
Leisure Society Official
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