Album Review: Gentleman Reg’s Leisure Life
By Sabrina Nanji
Gentleman Reg (Image: Norman Wong)
Fans of Toronto’s Reginald Vermue, a.k.a. Gentleman Reg, will know that the singer-songwriter can be a bit of a tease. So it comes as no surprise that his fifth long-play, Leisure Life, is being released digitally in three parts. One of them dropped this summer, another earlier this fall and the third is coming out in November. We previewed the new album, and the sometimes-alienating and often groovy power-pop god is back, in full form.
Ever since his last full-length was released in 2009, we’ll admit that we sort of let Gentleman Reg fall by the wayside. But it’s obvious he’s been working hard at perfecting his outlandish ramshackle rock: his side project, the electro-pop band Light Fires, toured with Hidden Cameras, and he’s worked with Canadian indie rock gold, collaborating with the likes of Owen Pallett, Tegan and Sara, Broken Social Scene and Ohbijou (whose drummer, James Bunton, also backs Gentleman Reg).
When compared to the last rock-infused record, Jet Black (no doubt an ironic title, given his distinct look), the fifth long-play is lighter and airier; at times, it’s even heavenly. Instantly it’s evident that the spotlight is on his backing band (it’s the first time he’s played consistently with the same crew for an entire studio album). Leisure Life takes their sonic exploration and experimentation to a new level — one that is simultaneously ostentatious and unpretentious.
There are still elements of that familiar funky electro going on, laced with Gentleman Reg’s idiosyncratic vocals. His hauntingly spectral and hollow voice could get lost inside the embellished orchestration; instead, his pale whisper-singing dominates each track, clinging to the fibres of your eardrums, and what’s more — he makes it seem effortless.
The first track of EP part one, “Waiting Around For Gold,” sets the tone for the rest of the album: buoyant and sanguine, keeping its edge through dark riffs and veined basslines that are heard in “Too Drunk” and “I Could Be What You Wanted.”
Though the elaborate instrumentation, catchy hooks and upbeat vocals can make it sound rather commercial at times, Leisure Life could serve well as a testament to the notion that perhaps all hope is not lost for mainstream music. Reg has triumphantly reinvented himself yet again, effectively blurring the lines between prosaic dance party tunes and heavenly imaginative pop.
Gentleman Reg plays at Gladstone Hotel on Dec. 2