Don’t you just hate it when you can’t successfully trace the genealogy of a particular quote, one that’s been bangin’ around inside your head? I had that issue just recently, unable to remember who originally uttered this nugget of an endorsement: “It makes me feel like I’m in a hovercraft in a Philip K. Dick movie.”
My hunt came to an end when I realized a certain Rebecca C. lavished this cyberpunk praise upon the virtual doorstep of Leisure Cruise’s website, a synth band out of Brooklyn. Of course, in order to thirstily lap up such glowing words dished out in a review you’d have to be both a fan of eighties revival pop and Blade Runner; I’ll just assume you are, so bon appetit.
Leisure Cruise is one of those mystery bands that manages to be well traveled and yet somehow underexposed. I’ve regrettably missed them playing live at School Night while vacationing in Los Angeles, overheard them used as a runway soundtrack for a fashion show, and most recently, caught the faintest refrain of their tune The Getaway used by JBL to shill waterproof speakers. And yet, drop their name at a party and nobody knows who they are. This is despite headlining for Metric and Death Cab for Cutie, for crying out loud.
Anyhow, angst aside, If you’ve never sampled these guys, look no further than their 2014 self-entitled debut album (as it’s their only released work so far, wink wink). If you’re lucky enough to be in a real shop that sells physical music (rest in peace, HMV Canada) it’s hard to miss, featuring surrealist imagery heavily reminiscent of the Alan Parsons Project; squint a little, and you might be able to even trace inspiration from Gary Numan’s The Pleasure Principle. Intentionally or not, Hipgnosis, the art group behind some of the most iconic records of the seventies and early eighties, has been done proud here.
The studio version of Double Digit Love … gleams with a great xylophonic intro and lyrics practically snatched from a Saturday morning anime
If the album art sets a theme, the music continues it, like an optimistic synth tone on sustain. Keyboard heavy, this is the soundtrack to an imagined evacuation of Earth — the one cassette tape the human race might pack on a hopeful, interstellar escapade — notably inspired by the 2012 discovery of potentially life-sustaining planets in the constellation Lyra (as explained in part by frontwoman Leah Siegel on the band’s own site and elsewhere). Which also handily explains the blase exhibitionism of the album’s cover art, nude couples marching two-by-two down a lonely strip of desert blacktop, towards their awaiting discotheque Noah’s Ark.
Symbolism aside; try some tunes, why don’t you. Here’s Ragged Dawn.
In doing casual research to support this post, I can’t get over how incredibly good Leisure Cruise sounds live. In some ways, these under-processed sessions lend a new perspective on their tracks, the ordinarily prioritized synthesizer layered deeper beneath Siegel’s vocal talent. It’s a refreshing take on music which to the unacquainted, might otherwise struggle to be taken more serious than nostalgia-fueled playfulness — and that would be a shame. The studio version of Double Digit Love, for example, gleams with a great xylophonic intro and lyrics practically snatched from a Saturday morning anime (“this is a limited edition emergency”); but try integrating it into a radio playlist with headier stuff, and you might be hard pressed to pull it off cohesively.
Revelation is another personal favorite, especially in this Buzzsession video. I’m left wishing that the U2 style guitar solos we hear in this version, beginning at 3:08, featured more prominently in future works by the group.
It’s hard to beat The Getaway though, seen here in studio form. It’s music video, reminiscent of a Wes Anderson fever dream, pits a wayfaring Shastriya Nritya dancer against the callous streets of New York City as he passes on messages to various cohorts along the way; notably, Siegel and frontman Dave Hodge make several cameos, occupying static positions throughout the city (purveyors of the Mannequin Challenge before it was cool). All in all, it’s a delightfully unaffected jaunt that should leave you with at least a half-smile on your face once the video fades to fabric (watch, and you’ll know what I mean).
I’ll be waiting though, for the day we see this song used as part of a soundtrack, perhaps the theme accompanying the concluding montage of an epic season-finale. Taken at lyrical face value, it’s a rousing, semi-tragic ode to a sojourner’s ongoing search for fulfillment.
As I wrap up, one question persists. What of new music or another album? Just like the hovercraft analogy for which I couldn’t quite remember whom to credit, I vaguely recall murmurs of a second Leisure Cruise compilation dropping soon — one that was purportedly tweaking the musical style of the band — but then I could just be confusing these details with another one of the single-album wonders I follow like Teenagersintokyo. Who knows?
That said, I got to thinking: if it literally took the stars of Lyra aligning in 2012 to form Leisure Cruise, maybe this year’s discovery of the Trappist-1 solar system is a good sign, since these songsters seem to look skyward for inspiration on where to go next, metaphorically and musically? After the wannabe-apocalypse that was last year, we could sure use the optimism.
Guys? We need a new cassette for our other spaceship.