Flashbacks by Leeds' The Lodger was recorded in Autumn 2009 onto tape at Hall Place Studios, Leeds by local genius and sociable recluse Richard Formby who had just finished Wild Beasts critically-acclaimed "Two Dancers" and back in the day played guitar on "Recurring" by Spacemen 3. Richard kept Ben Siddall (vocals, guitar) fed throughout with Ennio Morricone compilations and obscure Bryan McLean LPs while Joe Margetts (bass) and Bruce Renshaw (drums) read old copies of Uncut and played with the vintage analogue toys. Meanwhile Ben began to suffer from Alice in Wonderland syndrome...
Ben explains: "We'd had a couple of albums out (Grown-Ups and Life Is Sweet) and the first is what you've been doing most of your life, the second is trying to better the first one without alienating anyone who liked the first one, and if you're still ploughing away as a band long enough to make a third it tends to be the one where you cease to have any expectations and just try different things out and dare I say, progress. Without putting on wizard hats and rollerskates."
The new album continues the lyrical themes that informed the first two albums, including love, loss of innocence and memories of adolescence, fused with the musical trademarks of upbeat melodies, jangly jazz chords, bouncing basslines tied to energetic drums, but with the addition of new textures and a more straightforward approach to recording, as Ben recalls: "I'd had conversations with many friends about the pros and cons of editing the heck out of recordings to clear the mistakes that inept musicians make and computer trickery in general and I decided to adopt an approach where everything had to be real. Real strings and horns, untuned vocals etc. Trying to keep the spontaneity and any accidents as I knew we had limited time too being a budget-free band." All he had to do now was get down to the small matter of actually writing some new songs. "Every time I was in my girlfriend's car driving somewhere we kept listening to the magnificent first Left Banke album and I started getting a bit fixated with the idea of doing something with orchestral instruments and actually trying to dot it all out on manuscript myself. Not a baroque-pop soundalike necessarily but something that embraced classical music within pop. A challenge."
Thankfully there was now an idea of what direction he was going in, so Ben locked himself in his bedroom with no bread and water, some instruments and a moleskine music manuscript book. "I fancied trying to make the music more complex and the arrangements more dynamic and the logical thing to do was to bring in some other musicians to reach the parts that Ben, Joe and Bruce cannot alone. We'd used our friend Emil on trumpet for the previous EP we put out in 2009 and had used another friend Sarah on backing vocals as well. I scouted around and asked for several favours and managed to recruit two saxes, a trumpet, violin and cello and another backing singer and Bruce got hold of some timpani drums to add to his kit. I could now think on a bigger scale and begin to write."
With Mr. Formby's firm hand on the tiller all went according to plan and the result is Life Is Sweet. A bold step forward from 2008s well-received Life Is Sweet, this excellent album is simply a must-hear for fans of smart, soulful guitar pop. Touching on crucial references like The Jam, Orange Juice and Aztec Camera, The Lodger have created something at once familiar and totally new. Fueled by Ben's songwriting vision and the band's creative energy, Flashbacks is an ambitious addition to the classic pop canon.
Favorite tracks? Ben: "I like The Back Of My Mind a lot because it was a totally new approach for me, to layer up track upon track of feedback and repetitive guitar drones. And Flashbacks because the orchestral bits were how I wanted them to sound when I was scoring it all out. I love the baritone saxophone solo at the end as it was spontaneous and created by improvising which is something I've never done before, passing my control of it all over to someone else and leaving it to chance. Lyrically that's close to home too that one. Running Back Home To You is a nice end to it all. It fades and we hear all the string and horn players in isolation and it brings a smile to my chops."