It’s hard to take your eyes off of Denis Smith, the singer and Imperial Leisure frontman, as he flails around the stage like an out-of-control gyro-copter with his Sideshow Bob hair twisting in the spotlight. This band is just about the most exciting
thing to hit the leafy Guildford streets in weeks – nay months! Imperial Leisure are wrecking our home and things ain’t gonna be the same no more!
The band is justly famous for their energetic live performances. I even heard rumors that they play the ‘big uns’ with two bass guitars, three horns, two MCs and a cast of ten other musicians. When I recently saw ‘em playing live in Camden there was a squad of eleven up there on stage. But here in Surrey (The Boiler Room) we have the stripped down lite version of this excessive party band – just six gang members – but wow they could brighten your day without even trying. It was like setting a swarm of hot hornets free in a candy shop. Enough energy, buzz and electricity in the air to keep your hands high and your tippy toes moving with a uniquely gnawing anticipation.
Imperial Leisure recreate all those best loved vintage sounds with their style, attitude and finesse but their music is also casually shaken up with large shots of hardcore rap and rock to create a subtle beast whose flavours and aromas may be largely poppy 2-tone sounds like Madness, but almost always laced with the sour punch of something new wave – like Rage Against the Machine. Some of their more recent works sounds like the band is making (an unwelcome) foray into indie post-punk sound too – but the greater proportion of their output is still as two-tone ska as ever.
This skalextric sextet pumped out some of their old-time sounds like ‘The Art of Saying Nothing’ with unifying offbeat tempos and those skacore attributes or the crowd favourite ‘The Beast’ with its ridiculous intro and juicy walking bass lines. AJ on guitar is white-lightning fast and devilishly clever, Scott on drums is rapid-city and that bone has treble-the-grunt of any other I have heard, and adds grind and churn to each Imperial Leisure tune.
Itchy feet skedaddled and slam dunked around that wickedly small stage as the crowd scoobied to the beat in unison … Den implored the happy sweating crowd to hop, bound and jump. And move they did. Because this music is designed to lift you up and keep your tinkle toes twinkling in the air. Superb songs like ‘The Landlord’s Daughter’ and ‘Man On The Street’ were decorated with notes of yearning might- blast-notes from the achingly gurnish bug-eyed maestro on trombone and layers of velvety smooth chords were pumped and sifted through by Stu on keyboards.
The gig was as fast and as furious as a ferret on the run from Susan Boyles underwear draw … and was over all too quickly for the crowd who moaned and wailed as we sailed to the end. Highlights were ‘Alperton’ and ‘The Landlord’s Daughter’ with those smooth interludes showered with invigorating bucketfuls of skantastic sounds.
Six pints of juice and pure energy, a curious cure for apathy. Man, you gotta have some of this!