Starting in 1977 as a punk rock band, Leisure Class soon added saxes, flutes and the likes to their sound. A self-released ten-inch EP came out in the early Eighties, and although the band continued to play in varying line-ups, sometimes up to nearly twenty musicians at once, and came up with a rather unique sound, they were never signed by a record label. Maybe, or even possibly, it's their originality which made them inaccessible to the masses. Lead singer Dimitri Mugianis had to fight with severe addiction problems which also probably didn't help further the band's career.
Apparently Leisure Class disbanded in 1995, but in 2004 a retrospective double-CD album containing all their studio recordings was released once again on the band's own label. This was followed by a profile on NPR. Again a few years of silence, before Dimitry Mugianis was the subject of the documentary I'm Dangerous With Love, dealing with his successful attempt of quitting drugs. This film probably explains the release of Parents Night At The Leper Colony, which is a one disc collection of material that was already featured on their double album. Owners of that earlier compilation probably won't need the new one, but those unfamiliar with Leisure Class will get a splendid one hour introduction to this criminally overlooked band.
If I wanted to do them justice, I would review every single track by itself, because Leisure Class are so varied in style that no two songs sound the same. "Weekend Punk", the only track from the Seventies, is still purest punk, but everything else is an eclectic mix of punk rock, jazz, soul and musical that will spin your head. The biggest parallel I made are the Dead Kennedys, although Mugianis' vocal performance is rougher, reminding me at times of Henry Rollins. The Tubes also come to mind with the strong dramatic touch all over the songs. The lyrics are biting and full of sarcasm, backed by musicians who truly know their trade. The band is unafraid to venture into unusual territory, be it cheesy balladry ("Sorry I Made You Cry"), gospel (the ten minute long "Ready To Receive") and much more. Leisure Class are shamelessly mixing the most different styles into a cocktail that will delight the open-minded and very likely scare away the purists who don't like their chosen genre crossbred with something totally unexpected.
After listening a couple of times to Parents Night At The Leper Colony, I find myself sad and disappointed that this unusual but definitely very great band never got the recognition it deserved. Those in search of something different will find a lot to discover on this excellent album. Too bad these guys are no longer around to create more of their unique art.
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