World Leader Pretend: Punches – with “Lovey Dovey” video cover

World Leader Pretend - PunchesPart 5 of 12 Albums That Stuck With Me

Warning: turn down your speakers the first time you listen to this album. It begins with a loud cymbal crash, followed by four bars of nothing but drum. Piano and guitar join in from there, soon enhanced by strings from the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.

Piano and strings are hardly unheard of on rock albums, but Punches makes particularly adept use of them. It also manages to incorporate the lead singer’s frequent strong exhalations effectively and is the only winner ever of the jaQ Andrews Best Use of Sleigh Bells to Unify an Album Award. (The cash prize has already been donated to charity.)

At least three songs feature sleigh bells: the track 4 title cut “Punches”; track 7, “Masses”; and track 9, “Appassionato”. Also linking tracks 7 and 9 is the same piano riff, transposed from a minor to a major key in the latter song, a beautiful short instrumental. Key words and phrases appear at multiple points on the album as well.

Punches isn’t shy on references, either. The band name itself comes from an R.E.M. song. A repeated line at the tail end of the opener, “Bang Theory”, slightly modifies a refrain from Sugar Ray’s 1999 hit “Someday”; the bizarre choice of antecedent and changing “So far, so long, so far away” to “So long, so hard, so far away” makes me wonder if there isn’t some prior tune I’m missing. And in track 10, “B.A.D.A.B.O.O.M”, an entire paragraph from page 126 of In the Making: Creative Options for Contemporary Art is quoted.

Only occasionally does World Leader Pretend sound like someone else – for a few seconds on track 12, “Horse of a Different”, for example, lead singer Keith Ferguson channels U2’s Bono. And he doesn’t sound at all like Meatloaf in track 5, “Lovey Dovey”, despite addressing some of the same subject matter as “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”. Egad, that song is terrible in so many ways. This one is so much better. And short.

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