The Lodger, who hail from Leeds, England (a city of about 700,000 that is also home to The Mekons, Gang of Four, Soft Cell, Sisters of Mercy, Utah Saints, Kaiser Chiefs, Edsel Auctioneer and others too numerous to name) is actually three guys named Ben, Joe and Bruce, who are joined by several friends on their third album. Singer and songwriter Ben Siddall wrote and arranged all the songs, but bassist Joe Margetts and drummer Bruce Renshaw’s contributions make this a real band.
The first song, “The Back of My Mind,” is a quick-time quasi-skiffle beat tune that feels tossed off like a silly introductory track. It’s on the second song, “Have a Little Faith in People,” that Siddall begins to show himself as a better than average songwriter. It’s the most sophisticated song on the album, in a pop sense, and it’s as strong as something one might encounter on side two of a Belle & Sebastian album. Siddall should write more songs like this, as the saying goes.
There is an Orange Juice/Aztec Camera aspect to some of this, in a rather vague, general sense, but it’s hard to get around those two bands completely when you play music like this, and it’s present in subtle ways. At least they show off a few of the better bits. Of course, that road wends its way back to The Kinks, eventually, and there’s some of that in there too. They lose their way at about the mid-point, and things get too soft and gooey in places. The horns on “Stand Up!” seem gratuitous, and fully illustrate how much they don’t need them in the context in which they operate.
More directness in the melodies would help on a few of these songs, and Siddall could benefit from varying the tone of his vocals slightly. Having said that, Slumberland remains one of the most diverse and interesting labels around, and this record should find a place in a lot of music collections this summer.