Hailing from St. Paul, Minnesota – once home to the legendary Husker Du – indie rock/power pop act The Persian Leaps can be expected to come with a certain level of musical pedigree. Across four EPs, released between 2013-2016, they’ve more than proved themselves. Having already honed a great sound that takes elements of the most melodic Huskers, early R.E.M. and Let’s Active, their first four releases potentially sets them up as the greatest 80s college rock band that never was.
‘Bicycle Face’ might just beat the lot. As always, the EP length provides the perfect hit – just long enough to satisfy those with old fashioned curiosities for hearing releases from end to end, while simultaneously providing enough musical frivolity for the digital Apple pickers – but the songs so often show a band who’ve used their time for growth very wisely. There’s no flab or filler here.
‘Picture My Reaction’ starts excellently, throwing out a two-chord power riff that harks back to the days of XTC’s ‘Black Sea’. Joining the main riff, the drums are heavy on the toms and the band powers forth into great indie rock. Equal parts 70s post-punk and 90s alternative, the music is instantly familiar, but the way frontman Drew Forsberg pushes his vocal range from unfussy narrative style to higher registers for a chorus is completely from the school of Robert Pollard – more specifically the early noughties output from the mighty Guided By Voices. ‘On The Downside’ takes similar core elements and blends them with a choppy and bouncy demeanour, providing a great mechanised workout for a lone guitar, while the vocals – part crooned – give The Persian Leaps a distinctive edge, beyond that of their most obvious influences.
‘Even Less’ provides ringing guitars aplenty and places them atop a hugely melodic bassline, the result of which is like hearing an unearthed gem from the Boston and/or Minneapolis scenes from the early 90s. As the solid indie rock fare allows a both a reasonable power pop chorus and emotive lyric to shine through, it’s as if The Persian Leaps are able to channel the ghost of Grant Hart to their best advantage, before more tight college rock spirit helps ‘About The Lions’ to take a place as the EP’s best track. A juddering chorus arrangement combined with the repeated refrain of ‘You never worry / About the Lions‘ is stupidly infectious – not to mention just a little strange – but everything combined, this number represents everything you’ve ever loved about this kind of indie rock. The three musicians really shine: Adam Brunner’s bass is solid without ever feeling the need to dominate; drummer Michael McCloskey turns in a tough and taut rhythm throughout and Drew’s approach to vocals always keeps an ear for a melody to counterbalance a hefty ringing guitar tone. Last up, ‘Pushpins’ works a muted riff against a forceful croon before blossoming into a broader, guitar driven sound. There’s a great push and pull here, with the band moving back into the muted sounds for each verse, but – interestingly – never showing any real desire to exploit the overused quietLOUDquiet Pixies technique, which certainly shows a band who are keener to lean towards the more angular elements of power pop than anything else. By the time the last chorus rolls around, there’s a push of the power pop edge as the vocals are complimented by easy harmonies. Finally, as everything comes everything to an abrupt halt, there’s a feeling the band knows this is a job well done.
With a sense of melody throughout that beats the bulk of 2015’s ‘High & Vibrate’ and a general feeling of confidence that’s on display far more often than on any previous Leaps recordings, ‘Bicycle Face’ presents another step forward for the Minneapolis power pop crew. It isn’t going to win over any new converts to the genre, especially where others have failed, but for those devoted to Bill Janovitz, Cold Water Flat, or perhaps even ‘Isolation Drills’ era Guided By Voices, this EP is a must.