‘Leader’s’ punches miss mark

When your band name is a reference to an R.E.M. song, what do you do? You make music. This is exactly what New Orleans trio World Leader Pretend does. World Leader Pretend’s major label debut “Punches” is smart and solid throughout. The band received lukewarm attention for the publicity stunt it pulled in Chicago.

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By Corinne Love

By Corinne Love

When your band name is a reference to an R.E.M. song, what do you do? You make music. This is exactly what New Orleans trio World Leader Pretend does.

World Leader Pretend’s major label debut “Punches” is smart and solid throughout.

The band received lukewarm attention for the publicity stunt it pulled in Chicago. The band professed to be a Chicago promoter and denounced itself as horrible and that it should be banned from New Orleans.

Needless to say, what followed instead was a four page article in praise of World Leader Pretend, as the “next big thing.”

However, even a great name and an even better publicity stunt can not make “Punches” any more or less a mediocre debut.

This is not to say, that “Punches” is all mediocre. The band draws influences from lo-fi indie rock, southern soul, college rock and rambunctious musical landscapes.

The resulting product is somewhat of a mixed bag. Some songs would sound incredible live, some would sound awfully dull in a film and some could possibly be the underlying score for a coming of age, live adaptation of Peanuts.

Front man Keith Ferguson, elaborating on his band’s obvious reference to R.E.M., not only borrows the title of the song but also Michael Stipe’s conscious vocal styles as well as the vocal styles of Thom Yorke and Chris Martin.

World Leader Pretend does not effectively reach the impact and authenticity of the latter, their debut being so shortly on the heels of Los Angeles quartet Maroon 5. The band has to differentiate itself from the genre of piano, thoughtful rock music.

The material on “Punches” is focused on variety more than most indie albums, though. Thus, recording the debut in New Orleans has given World Leader Pretend a slight edge over their indie counterparts.

The edge is not its piano melodies or southern soul sound but its inherent quirkiness. “Tit for Tat” is a song that, while not entirely new, does sound fresh when in comparison to most music geared at the young adult market.

The same goes for the song “B.A.D.A.B.O.O.M.” which is boastful, loud and overall noisy. The chorus, with its anthem-like quality, is energetic and the most upbeat of all the tracks. It is one of those songs that would sound better live than in the studio.

“A Grammarian Stuck in a Medical Drama’s” title alone is a clever take on bands that have unusual one liner song titles.

The song itself is lackluster, starting with an incredible introduction only to quickly fade into less than stellar proceedings.

Perhaps the best track on “Punches” is not one of the sleepy ballads or piano driven melodic song pieces but the over extended, jam session “The Masses.”

“The Masses” clocks in around six or seven minutes, but listeners get a better hear of what “Punches” really should have sounded like: a distorted, controlled chaos of dizzying influences that span different genres and different bands.

If “Punches” is World Leader Pretend’s first swing, then it had better keep swinging.

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