ENTERING the world of The Vegan Leather is an all-consuming experience; it’s a place defined by glittering melodies, pulsing rhythms and the kind of deliriously punchy disco punk-pop that makes you never want to get off your feet. From the moment they first came together in 2014, the Paisley quartet have been casually redefining the parameters of their music with unbridled creativity and a refreshing eccentricity and it all comes to fruition on their meticulously crafted debut album ‘Poor Girls/Broken Boys’.
The album is as much a heady dose of escapism as it is a reflection on the tumultuous times we live in. With themes of social anxiety and female struggle at the heart of many songs, the band explore a number of dualities; light and dark, love and lies, anxiety and euphoria, pitching their dark, often introspective lyrical themes against a swirl of vibrant, upbeat art-pop. Recorded with Paul Savage at the revered Chem19 Studios in Blantyre (The Twilight Sad, Mogwai, Franz Ferdinand), it’s a case of music and words working seamlessly together with the producer giving their playful and poppy arrangements a revitalised energy, all while retaining the relentless infectiousness that brought them onto our radar in the first place.
‘French Exit’ is the perfect, wondrously subversive opener; a dense array of synths and chopped up guitars make way for a bombast of a chorus, recalling the likes of Klaxons at their most abrasive or Phoenix in their heyday. What at first seems like a moment of effervescent joy though, swiftly reveals itself to be anything but as they mirror the creeping sense of unease and anxiety that takes over when a night out turns sour
Long-time fans will be pleased by the presence by ‘The Knife’, so immediate and addictive, while the Marie-Collins-led ‘Flakey’ is a saccharine slice of indie-pop that finds the singer ruminating over a failed relationship.
The band’s versatility never comes into question throughout. From the Parisian backstreets (Daft Punk, Phoenix) to the hustle and bustle of New York City (LCD Soundsystem) to Scotland’s own rich indie heritage (Franz Ferdinand, Orange Juice et al) the band are never afraid to show off their influences but they do so while injecting their own unique energy and spirit. Album highlight ‘Unorthodox’ is as off-kilter as its title suggests. Brimming with anxious energy and a suspicious tone, it’s almost Franz Ferdinand-esque with its catchy melodies, chugging bassline and alluring vocals.
It is perhaps this all-important element of the band’s sound that Paul Savage has harnessed so well – the charismatic vocal interplay between Gianluca Bernacchi and Marie Collins. Normally so exuberant and animated onstage at their now renowned live shows, the duo’s insatiable chemistry is captured brilliantly across the 11 tracks; understated and bubbling with tension on ‘Unorthodox’, deeply moving and emotionally fraught on the brilliant ‘Holy Ghost’ before emerging urgent and defiant on ‘The Hit’
‘The Hit’ is perhaps the finest example of the band bringing music and message together so effortlessly. Exploring the idea of ‘learning to exist’ in a world that doesn’t treat everyone equally, the band pair the anxious and violent imagery of the lyrics with pulsing rhythms, a massive chorus and a closing riff that would please even the staunchest purveyors of desert rock.
With choruses and hooks aplenty that demand incessant replays, it’s no surprise that the band have secured the support of Radio 1 in recent months. ‘Poor Girls/Broken Boys’ is brimming with them from start to finish and even as we approach the final tracks, there’s no shortage of them in supply. A newly recorded version of fan favourite ‘Days Go By’ will stay in your head for days while recent single ‘Heavy Handed’ is like a bolt of lightning; a powerful stroke of defiance that sees them let the guitars fully off the leash. Featuring some of the meatiest riffs you’ll hear all year, it’s another heavy dose of reality that explores the dichotomous situation of juggling artistic ideas within the parameters of commercial expectations. Defiant and unapologetic in its delivery, it’s the sound of a band who refuse to follow the crowd, who continue to exact their own vision without compromising for as much as a moment.
It’s this important philosophy that rings true throughout – that no matter what modern life throws at you, music can pull you through. Concluding with ‘Zeitgeist’, there’s a message of triumph over adversity that shines through it all. ‘Don’t let the zeitgeist get you down’ they urge over one final crescendo.
Brimming with ambition and unassailable drive, ‘Poor Girls/Broken Boys’ is as much a thrilling statement of intent as it is a victory lap from one of Scotland’s brightest prospects. Through all the massive riffs, driving rhythms and big choruses, The Vegan Leather are a band with whom you’ll never stray too far from the dancefloor. We get the feeling they’re only just getting started.
‘Poor Girls / Broken Boys’ arrives on 25th October via Midnight Pink Records/Believe Digital. You can order the album here or listen on all main streaming platforms.