SPEAKING as a West Country lad myself, it comes as no surprise, with all the plaudits and freewheelin’ fertility surrounding the harder end of the Antipodean jam-psych scene – led forth into the multicoloured haze by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and Pond – that the South West would, at some point, answer back in kind.
Sharing a reputation for lazy heat, surf, crystal blue waters and a – let’s say – more mañana approach to modern living (although round these ‘ere parts that’s called dreckly), the West Country was the obvious soil for a homegrown modern psych band to grow in.
Step forward Dorset’s Leeches. The trio of guitarist and vocalist Ben Lowe, bassist and vocalist Jack Pearce, and Frank Waloszek tickling the skins, are set to release a digital-only compilation of singles and strays, entitled Easy.
The three-piece got together four years ag, and have put out two EPs since: Strange Bonds and Watusi. Easy then, functions, the band says, as a chance to “pull together the odds and ends that Leeches have either lost between sofa cushions or left at the pub over the last few years.
“As well as last year’s single ‘Flowers in the Garden’ and previously live-only track ‘Bob Ross’, the band have also finally committed to record phaser-drenched holiday lament ‘Fuerte Ventura’.”
Let’s open the door and step inside, see what these boys from the land of the yellow and white cross have to offer. Do they walk the walk?
It would seem they’re up for this; this ain’t trash talk. Opener “Fuerte Ventura” leaps straight in, making absolutely all the correct moves. There’s really loose-limbed percussive groove; there’s Gibson SGs busy about sleazy riffola. Ooh …
Follower “Man Up” plays with a little more light and dark in its palate. The guitars are frickin’ heavy: they’ve bought a ticket for the deep stoner territory of Spirit Caravan. The vocals hit falsetto in the more open vocal passages. My, that riff though. The song shifts and progs out just enough, before hair flails and guitars unsuccessfully declare their innocence in the face of a deserved pummelling.
“Flowers in the Garden” has its roots in more Cream-like staccato jazz chord shapes, before a really dirty, phased, psych groove gets its exotically herbed kaftan on. “No one’s in the garden / Nothing Ever changes” pronounces Ben, as the track slides into a more languid, post-climax glissando-scape.
You’d swear the pre-payday psyche-panic of ‘Money’ came with guitars that should be included in an arms treaty, so phased and filthy and intent on your soul are they. “Where’s all my money gone?” yowls Ben, as a sorta “Twist and Shout” aaahhhh-aaaahhhh-aahhhhhh climbing backing vocal lifts.
“All the People” sneaks up on a pre-programmed beat, guitars zonked and intent on a jam. A minute or so in, after a couple of couplets, they’re off in a razor-sharp psych-blues-astral plane.
And the album closes with fans’ live favourite “Bob Ross”, which has an undercoat of Cobain, on which the track flexes from heavvvy to a more British guitarpop feel, to a cosmic Asian interlude, and then right on out to throw Laughing Sam’s dice with Hawkwind.
There’s no doubt these lads fit right in cosy with the likes of Pond. But there is a real Britishness here: there’s more of Hendrix (don’t @ me, I mean in terms of his cultural and musical success being on these shores); sometimes even, just a touch of the guitar cockiness of Supergrass.
So. Brass tacks. No, they’re not doing anything new. They’re not Heston Blumenthal, inventing and puzzling and confounding: see my recent Jockstrap review if you want to know what’s happening with the avant-avant-garde.
What Leeches are is that friend of yours who can cook a madras that hits … the … spot. The dirty soul food you needed. Forget the napkins. This is a messier, more vital business we’re engaged in.
Now based in Bristol, these boys have pulled support slots with the likes of Sunflower Bean; my requirements, maitre d’, are that the live circuit be invigorated forthwith; and that this collection gets a full vinyl release.
Leeches Easy will be released by Leisure Records this Friday, July 3rd. Obtain your copy at https://leisurerecords.bandcamp.com/album/easy-2