Music can very much be a mood thing. People have songs they listen to when they feel down or ones that remind them of a special time. Another common theme is the going out or getting ready tune, that song you listen to as you leave the drudgery of work behind and head into the weekend. Since first stumbling across them at 2000 Trees in 2009, one band has been the sound track to my descent into debauchery more than any other and that band is Imperial Leisure.
When I caught them at 2000 Trees, it was the middle of the afternoon, they sounded interesting from their description in the program and we settled down in the field to check them out. We weren’t sat down for long; the band’s ska punk offerings had us skanking almost immediately. The tunes were infectious, the lyrics so catchy that you found yourself singing along to choruses of songs you’d never heard before. It was such a lively, energetic and memorable performance that I went looking for their material as soon as I returned home. What I found was the band’s début album The Art Of Saying Nothing, which has recently been added to Spotify.
Describing Imperial Leisure is easy enough, but might miss some of the subtleties of their sound. I’ll give it a go anyway. There is the obligatory horn section playing throughout, there are the cheeky lyrics, there are the ‘standard’ ska tones and tempos, and they intermingle with more modern mixing and scratching. What really sets Imperial Leisure apart, though, is the delivery. The sampling and mixing is done well and compliments the varying rhythms. The horn section, whilst always there, doesn’t necessarily dominate. But more than anything else the vocals, which come at you in a hip-hop reggae mixed lyrical assault, are what make you sit up and take notice.
Many writers over the years have heard the advice “write what you know”. If Imperial Leisure have been given this advice, then what they know is drinking, having fun, nights outs, drinking, women, good times with mates and drinking. The feeling of fun and enjoyment is prevalent throughout the album; you can sense the smiles on the band’s faces as the cheekily saucy and sometimes over the top lyrics are delivered. Even the sad lament at the end of ‘Alperton’: “that’s what you get for being a wanker” is sung with a wry smile.
Live, Imperial Leisure are awesome, full of energy, and probably alcohol, they easily get the crowd moving. Such energy isn’t an easy thing to capture on record but this is a very good attempt. I still find myself singing along or even skanking round my house when I put the album on as I get ready for a night out on the town.
The Art Of Saying Nothing was one of my albums of 2009, and now that it is more readily available through Spotify I recommend that anyone that likes a fun, uplifting, frenzied and energetic musical experience should check it out.