‘The Fine Art of Hanging On’ is another treat from the band with a Bass beermat in their guitar sound hole.
There seems to be lots of music referencing space travel about at the moment. Maybe the thought of exploring new worlds gains attraction when your own is busy being poisoned. But, unlike the previous Album of the Week (Public Service Broadcasting’s ‘The Race For Space’), the connection between ‘The Fine Art of Hanging On’ and extra-planetary travel is largely confined to the cover art – a cartoon astronaut gently floating off towards the stars, his outstretched hand having, presumably, just let go of a lifeline. Instead, The Leisure Society’s latest wonderful offering is more concerned with parochial and introspective matters of love, loss and friendship.
In choosing ‘The Fine Art of Hanging On’ as an Album of the Week I have to declare a interest – The Leisure Society hail from my hometown of Burton upon Trent. I would be immesurably proud of them even if they weren’t any good, but fortunately they are brilliant.
A six-piece, including a flautist, strings, the occasional ukelele and, on ‘The Undefeated Ego’, a fairground organ passage that brings to mind Far Out off Parklife, the Leisure Society make a beautiful, sophisticated sound.
Nick Hemmings lyrics tend towards the wistful and reflective. ‘Wide Eyes At Villains’ regrets “another weekend binge / I promise things will change”. The video for ‘Tall Black Cabins’ features a lone fisherman struggling to make a decent catch, the chorus of which laments, “[t]here are so many tides are made to go to waste”, concluding sagaciously “we all shall be replaced anon.”
My favourite tracks Combine a similar lyrical furrow with an upbeat tune, in the vein of Belle and Sebastian or Gorkys Zygotic Mynci. The jagged guitar riff and trumpet blasts on ‘I’m A Setting Sun’, for example, will doubtless bring a smile to summer festival audiences, but the title and chorus – “Make space for the ride that you’re on / But the ride that you’re on aint safe” – suggests a somewhat melancholy theme. Similarly the tune of ‘As The Shadows Form’ requires me to use the adjective “jolly”, but the lyrics offer “Alone on a hill../ And all this may just keep you sane / as the shadows form around you”.
It’s the kind of muisc you want to find the time to listen to properly, preferably sitting with the lovely gatefold in front of speakers good enough to do the sound justice. I have mostly had to settle for the i-phone version on a plane, but nevertheless having enjoyed ‘The Fine Art of Hanging On’ at least three times a day since purchasing at their Islington Assembly Hall gig in mid-week, I may have to start rationing myself lest the celebration of local heroes becomes obsessive!