First posted on Mark Is Cranky:
First off, I’ve gotta admit that my distrust of piano-based rock music caused me to toss this CD onto the “probably not” pile. For some reason (probably just my contrarian nature) I’ve became wary of the piano after all of the hoopla surrounding groups that I just did not get: The Ben Folds Five (a few years back) and, more recently, Coldplay.
So when Punches kicked off with the percussive chords of “Bang Theory”, my inner anti-Coldplay took over. It’s too bad that I let my prejudices have so much say. World Leader Pretend is not Coldplay-lite. They deserve (really, all bands do) at least one unfettered listen.
What World Leader Pretend is is a rock band that allows piano/keys to have equal weight in providing (or supporting) song structure.
For example, the title track’s opening keyboard riff and vintage Cure-esque piano figure give way to a descending series of chords outlined by acoustic guitar and piano. Electric guitar takes over just before and during the chorus with crunchy power chords and tension-filed arpeggios.
All is not bombast here as lead singer Keith Ferguson sings a beautiful melody on the ballad “Lovey Dovey” (so good to hear the return of melody to pop and rock music). Local New Orleans singer-songwriter Blair Gimma adds a surprising 4AD-ish twist to the chorus.
However, if bombast is what you’re looking for, there’s plenty of it. “B.A.D.A.B.O.O.M.” rocks hard with Pixies-like intensity. “A Horse Of A Different” plays choppy guitar chords against a rolling arpeggio to great effect. It’s the latter song where I first hear the Radiohead connection that others have commented on. Really the only similarity is in Ferguson and Thom Yorke’s penchant for elongating their vocal lines. World Leader Pretend though, is much more direct in the lyrics department. No arty opaqueness to the wordsmithing here.
One left turn (or sorts) in the program comes with the 8-minute “A Grammarian Stuck In A Medical Drama”. Much like the mini-suites so common of early art rock bands (King Crimson and Yes come to mind), this song builds its story by combining several quite different segments: quiet and ambient foreboding opening bit, deep and ominous sweeping guitar chords, sparsely sung verses with that opening atmosphere returning underneath, choruses with soaring, chiming guitar (almost, but not quite, stealing from the Book-of-Edge). At first I thought that the tune was an ‘oddball’ in the mix. Repeated listens made me realize that they’d created a suite out of many of the textures presented elsewhere on Punches.
So hopefully I’ve pushed my musical prejudices aside for a while. I hate to think of genuinely good music slipping away due to that kind of intellectual laziness.
Hmmm…maybe I’d give Coldplay another listen…