Before I get started on this review, I have to make the disclaimer that I’ve never really listened to ska before. Imperial Leisure are a little out of my comfort zone, and before today if I saw their music on the shelves of a music store I’d probably walk right past.
That’s what I like about Scene Better Days: I’m always being encouraged to broaden my horizons. If you’re in the same boat as me, a ska novice who let the genre pass you by, I recommend you get listening to Imperial Leisure ASAP.
There are albums that just scream summer, and Lifestyle Brand is one of them. I can see this album being played in parks, beer gardens and beaches up and down the country. The sun is starting to emerge and spring has well and truly sprung in the UK. Lifestyle Brand is fun and upbeat, with witty lyrics throughout, and I can imagine myself playing this album at a barbecue with family and friends, chilled cider in hand.
I absolutely love the brass in opener Victory Cycle, and said brass just gets better and better as the album goes on. Rob O’Neale’s trumpet and Jerome Harper’s trombone add a healthy kick of attitude to every track.
Lyrically and vocally, vocalist Denis Smith appears, to me, to emulate Madness and The Specials. This doesn’t surprise me, considering Imperial Leisure cite these bands, among others, as influences. His brazen, no-nonsense lyrics are great fun to listen to, although sometimes they do get drowned out by the instruments.
Lifestyle Brand is a really solid alt-ska package. It’s clear that all of the 12 tracks belong together, and there’s enough variation and changes of pace throughout to keep things interesting. Examples include the bass-heavy ‘Animal’, the meandering intro of ‘Three Women One Night’, and the instrumental near the end of ‘Splendid Marvellous’.
Imperial Leisure should be proud of their third full-length studio album. Last year was a busy year for the seven-piece: they appeared at over 20 UK festivals and supported ska-punk veterans King Prawn at London’s KOKO. I can see Imperial Leisure making even more impressive steps in 2015.
– Katie Boyden