The period of music history we've come to know as post-punk was a frenzied but all-too-brief window, a time when seemingly countless sounds and schools of thought diverged from the flash point of the Pistols and Ramones.
Among them was a new kind of pop - fast, economical, and spurred to life by the healthy skepticism of punk's first flush. But unlike the dour, confrontational likes of, say, Joy Division or PiL, this was music that sought to entertain as much as challenge, to seduce with melody while it subtly subverted the norm: Subway Sect, the Monochrome Set, Fire Engines, Postcard Records' "Sound of Young Scotland" stable (Orange Juice, Josef K). It was pop, but not as we'd known it.
But, rather than the beginning of a revolution, post-punk proved to be a self-contained moment. Its best bands either broke up, lost their insurrectionary fire, or mutated into something perhaps as good but entirely different. We have those records still, of course, but when was the last time we heard something new that sparks with such rough-hewn charm, that wields a simplicity so perfectly realized, you suspect it probably isn't simple at all?
From their provocative name to their lean, bright songs, Socialist Leisure Party are a band of a sort we haven't heard for a very long while. And yet, in the subtle but undeniable way they acknowledge and engage with the modern world, they are a band unlike any we've heard before.
Featuring singer-guitarist Andy Hitchcock and bassist Kevin House (both formerly of Sarah Records/Damaged Good/Fierce Panda signings Action Painting!), plus guitarist Axel Amicabile and drummer Julien Kokot, Socialist Leisure Party have been working toward their debut EP, the wonderfully titled Tactical POP! for Coffee Cadets (perhaps a winking nod to Fire Engines' epochal Lubricate Your Living Room album, which that band described as "background music for action people"), since 2006. With what will soon be recognized as characteristic insurrectionary fire, Hitchcock explains that their name was chosen "for its deliberate awkwardness, as an antidote to an atmosphere of smug apathy and marketing subservience in the British music scene. Their intent: to be the anti-Kooks. 'Socialist' is a taboo word in the British media, a cuss word more potent than any cliched blaspheme expected of a 'rock and roll' band."
Make of that statement what you will: The eight songs that make up Tactical POP! brim with a relentless vigour that needs no explanation to be understood. The band's briskly strummed guitars and galloping rhythms, and Hitchcock's eternally youthful voice, combine to make some of the most effortlessly engaging pop in recent - or even long-distant - memory. From the unashamedly romantic declaration that is "Scented Crowbar" to the band's eponymous theme song (a playful echo of Orange Juice's "Moscow Olympics"), this is music to which you can dance, fall in love, plot a revolution either personal or public. But it can't be ignored.
Praise for Socialist Leisure Party:
"Opener "Scented Crowbar" sounds like a lost classic from the 80's that you've heard before (except you haven't) while "No Tattoos" crackle with the kind of energy and excitement not hear since the earliest days of the Wedding Present. Elsewhere, "Down with the Kids" has a punk sneer out on outside while not forgetting the melody (with Andy spitting "You're so criminally young!"). The punk-pop spirit continues until the end and what you're left with is another winner from the Shelflife stable." - Dagger Zine
"Although the band has often been pigeonholed as "post-punk", a vague identifier that always leaves us scratching our heads, the decision was made to ignore sub-sub-genre classification and explain the sound as energetic guitar-pop with enough classic influence to keep even the most jaded of critics from rolling an eye. For additional listening to the impressive new material, we highly recommend a visit to the SLP MySpace. The lovely track we have featured today is actually a bonus 7" single that accompanies the new EP upon purchase. Have a listen." - Milk Milk Lemonade
"I'm always excited when Shelflife releases anything. They have a pretty good track record so I know it'll be worth a good listen. Socialist Leisure Party is no different. I think that Shelflife is getting a little more ambitious these days. They don't seem afraid to test the waters with different type of pop bands than the older Shelflife label would. Socialist Leisure Party fits in the label but are a tad different too. When I gave them a listen, I thought I was going back in time to the 80's indie scene with these guys. It was refreshing." - Indie Today
"A post punk, utterly poppy affair clocking in at a tantalizingly brief twenty size minutes, the album is comprised of a six song EP and two song 7-inch. The band moves across the spectrum of glee, from the Spinto Band-like opener, to instrumental closer "Mondayland" which clearly takes a page out of The Go! Team playbook. It's the perfect thing to get a summer party started, provided you're all willing to dance like a modern-day like Annette Funicellos and Frankie Avalons on the beach." - Confessions of a Would-be Hipster
"Socialist Leisure Party would likely have fit much more comfortably into the more typical Sarah Records style, but it's 2009 and Sarah has been defunct for over ten years. Not to worry though, thanks to the fine folks over at Shelflife, Socialist Leisure Party have a nice home and a snazzy new release that is one part 7 inch and one part CD. Tactical POP! For Coffee Cadets is part of the Shelflife 1000 series where each release is limited to 300 copies and contains a record and a CD, both the exclusive tracks. So you're going to need both a turntable and a CD player to listen to the entire thing, and you will want to hear it, for the guitars jangle and whirl, and Andy Hitchcock vocals have that delicate balance between wistful melancholy and youthful nievete." - The Finest Kiss
"They have recently released a very, very good 8 track ep from Socialist Leisure Party, "Tactical POP! for Coffee Cadets" (I liked that one a lot!). Jangly pop-melodies all the way. I was expecting much of this band after hearing the demo of "Head in the hay" that we got for our own spring compilation (also on this sampler), but they managed to exceed my expectations." - Eardrums
"Great stuff that doesn't stray to far from what labels like Sarah Records as well as Factory Records would've put out back in their heyday, a philosophy that SHELFLIFE adamantly attempts to adhere to with all of their releases. Here's today's appropriately titled track that perfectly summarizes what you'll find contained within the rest of Tactical POP!. RECOMMENDED!" - Ditching Boy
Socialist Leisure Party
Tactical POP! for Coffee Cadets
Catalogue number: LIFE1007
Artwork by: Andrew Holder
1. Scented Crowbar
2. No Tattoos
4. Socialist Leisure Party
5. Down with the Kids
A. Head in the Hay (mp3)
B. Mondayland (instrumental)
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Cover art hi-res