The Leisure Society

TrackSingle / Album
The Last Of The Melting SnowThe Sleeper
A Fighting ChanceThe Sleeper
Save It For Someone Who CaresFull Time Hobby FTH082S
Pancake DayThe Sleeper/
A Product Of The Ego Drain
The Hungry YearsInto The Murky Water
Just Like The KnifeInto The Murky Water
One Man And His FugAlone Aboard The Ark
I'm A Setting SunThe Fine Art Of Hanging On
You'll Never Know When It BreaksThe Fine Art Of Hanging On
Wide Eyes At VillainsThe Fine Art Of Hanging On

The Leisure Society photo 1

The Leisure Society (l-r): Mike Siddell, Sebastian Hankins,
Nick Hemming, Christian Hardy, Helen Whitaker


Leisure Society playlist




Contributor: John Hartley

The Leisure Society: A Toppermost in Two Acts

Act One

My introduction to the Leisure Society comes not long after they have signed to the record label Full Time Hobby and had their critically acclaimed debut album rereleased. After an evening out on ‘the town’ (well, England’s capital city to be more precise) catching up with friends and former bandmates, I have a few things jotted down on the ‘notes’ app of my phone. It’s the only way I’m going to remember highlights of the evening, I reckon, as I compile them on the train homewards. One of these notes, read the following morning, states simply The Last Of The Melting Snow. It is too good a combination of words to be an idea that I have come up with for one of my own songs, so I type the phrase into an internet search engine, and a video is suggested. It’s coming back to me now … My ears are introduced to a gently plucked slice of wistful melancholia, simultaneously both sad and comforting. I investigate further, like what I hear and so buy the album upon which it appears.

A friend of mine once told me she could generally tell whether a song was any good or not within the first ten seconds of hearing it. I scoffed at this (although conceded that it was a fair statement given the last thing I had played her was one of my own compositions) and promptly created a compilation CD entitled ‘There Is Beauty Beyond The First Ten Seconds’. It opened with A Fighting Chance, a song which creaks open its eyes first thing in the morning, yawns, stretches and then opens itself up to be a self-help book for the rest of the day. The track also opens up The Sleeper, an album which continues the theme of realisation and remedy.

Songs like A Fighting Chance get short shrift from radio, because the average listener, perhaps like my friend, doesn’t have the patience to sit through an introduction to find the joy that will come later. They need something immediate, instantly catchy to stop themselves getting immersed in the mundanities of washing up or whatever it is they are doing instead of giving their sole attention to the radio. The Leisure Society have a trick up their sleeve, and take another song with a relatively lengthy introduction – forty-three seconds before the singing kicks in – but give it a sprightly, optimistic, instrumental treatment that induces suspense and release it as a single. Save It For Someone Who Cares fails to dent the charts, but it does win the band a second successive Ivor Novello nomination, so they must be doing something right.

They are doing something right, to my ears at least, and in these early days I take immense pleasure from The Sleeper in its rereleased form with added bonus EP A Product Of The Ego Drain, which compiles singles, B-sides and other unreleased material. This includes Pancake Day which instantly demands the creation of a new tradition in my household of being given an annual airing every Shrove Tuesday. This is in part because of its topical title but also to remind me of the subtle wit and humour that pervades some of the band’s lyrics: “I’m not an evil man, on Pancake Day I lent you my frying pan” being one example, a second from the same song being the languidly drawled appeal to the neighbours’ noise complaints, “‘Turn it down,’ they say. Relax be-atch, it’s Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre”. Sung over gentle acoustic tones this is almost the perfect definition of incongruity.


Interval (of twelve years)

Act Two

In need of something new to inspire me as I embark on the latest voyage of my inconsequential musical career, I stick The Sleeper into the CD player and sit back. It’s a really good album, really good. The sort of good that makes you not want to listen to anything else by a band because you don’t want to sully the good work that’s gone before. (Like how the Stone Roses should never have released Second Coming and instead enjoyed the same sort of legendary status the La’s managed by just releasing one album.) That’s probably the reason why I didn’t listen to the copy of Alone Aboard The Ark, the Leisure Society’s third album, when it was sent to me. It’s now very early 2021; perhaps I should see what came next.

Well. What a fool I have been, it seems. There is a body of work that I now binge upon, relentlessly, for maybe a third of the year, maybe even pushing a whole half, with very little else coming between me and the Leisure Society. Where should I begin? Perhaps with the band’s second album Into The Murky Water, which lollops into life with the title track and continues to delight thereafter. The initial standout for me is The Hungry Years with its moody poetic ruminations of less fruitful years “hid beneath the sand and the salt on the lips of the sea”. In many of their songs, the Leisure Society blend sadness with hope, often in two distinct musical sections, the sun coming after the rain, and this is no exception – “We’ll all get somewhere somehow” is the promise. Album closer Just Like The Knife provides similar sensation, shifting from the industrial grey of a British seaside fairground in winter to a warm, evening sunlit Hawaiian beach across the space of six minutes.


Onwards, then, to Alone Aboard The Ark, the album I ignored eight years ago when it arrived on my doorstep. It is the natural thing to do, really; when I have gained so much unexpected pleasure from rediscovering an old friend, I should make the effort to catch up on the rest of their life to date. It is, of course, a really good album and I feel slightly churlish at only selecting one song from it for the purposes of this Toppermost. However, One Man And His Fug is exactly the sort of song that floats my boat; all cheery, bouncy chords laced with self-reflection and perverse revelling in sometimes not being very well in the head. I, too, have sometimes missed “the fug of apathy and the grey days it surrounded”; similarly, I have known that “if I say what you want to hear, the face in the mirror won’t look right”. It’s great to have a catchy song to sing these emotions along to.


This brings us pleasantly along to the fourth album, released a couple of years later, entitled The Fine Art Of Hanging On. In 2009, this Toppermost could have been written solely about the first album and its accompanying EP; in mid 2021, this Toppermost could have been written solely about the fourth. It is a truly wonderful collection of songs. Your quick maths tells you that, of course, I can only select three. But which … Well, let’s start with I’m A Setting Sun. By now of course you’ve done your due diligence and read up elsewhere having heard some songs, and know and love the Leisure Society for their folky foundations. So it’s a bit of a shock when they go all glam-rock on you, isn’t it? But worry not, the gentle pastoral, banjo-plucked outro in which camels are pulled through needle eyes will bring back the status quo. (No, not that one.)

Now, let’s head to You’ll Never Know When It Breaks which is as beautiful a song of love as you could hope to hear. Not fairytale, Hollywood love, but the love that accepts destiny with all its flaws and contradictions – “we decided to be artless and happy” being the ultimate conclusion following the realisation that “It’s no use handing out platitudes, our luck is so uneven you’ll never know when it breaks.”

This is a Toppermost in two parts. Fittingly, really, given that so many of the Leisure Society’s compositions are songs in two parts. It makes sense then to conclude with what – for me at least – is the finest moment in the band’s canon: Wide Eyes At Villains. Part one, the lyrical part, begins with us listening to the radio’s gentle music, a direct contrast to the violence of the scene outside, constant promises of change that never materialise. It is a fair reflection on the state of the world today. And then … then … part two. This is the utopia, the promised land. There are no words, just a glorious, building instrumental crescendo with layers of brass, strings and opera. There is hope, there is optimism, there is joy. I’m looking forward to this next part of the world.

The Leisure Society released a fifth album in 2019, entitled Arrivals & Departures. I haven’t listened to it yet but you can join me here for the encore to this Toppermost in another twelve years.




The Leisure Society (Facebook)

The Leisure Society (Bandcamp)

The Leisure Society on Full Time Hobby

For Folk’s Sake interview by Lynn Roberts (2011)

The Leisure Society biography (AllMusic)

John Hartley has written several posts for the Toppermost site. He is the author of “Capturing The Wry”, a memoir of the early stages in his quest to write the perfect pop song. He tweets as @Johny Nocash and the music he creates can be found at Broken Down Records.

TopperPost #1,040


  1. Andrew Shields
    Sep 30, 2022

    Some excellent music here – really enjoyed it. Also heard a vague trace of early Duncan Browne in ‘The Last of the Melting Snow’. Will have to explore them further. Thanks.

  2. Carol Wilmot
    Oct 4, 2022

    Please don’t wait too much longer to explore Arrivals & Departures. You’re missing such a treat, it’s a brilliant album.

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