“Some magazine or website called Tom Vek a “one-man Bloc Party” and that’s a nice opening statement, but he’s actually better than that. We Have Sound is dark, moody, nervous, and groovy from the get-go. What cemented the album in this list was seeing him live and discovering that not only did these songs translate to a live band format, they got better. You just know his second album will be something else.” — this blog, December 2005.
And then he disappeared. His MySpace stopped getting updated and fell into disrepair. Around mid-2009 mostly I stopped checking for updates and kind of wrote him off. But then a couple weeks ago, like Willy Wonka, the lights in factory mysteriously came back on, a new website went up and with an announcement that his new album, Leisure Seizure, would be out June 6. Tom Vek was back.
But in today’s accelerated hype timetable would anyone still care after a five year absence? Vek’s 2005 contemporaries — Bloc Party, The Futureheads, Maximo Park, etc — may still be around, but interest in their sound has waned, what with garage rock, shitgaze, chillwave, witch house, and what have you supplanting the fashionable post-post-punk of six years ago.
But listening to the fantastic Leisure Seizure over the last couple weeks I’ve come to the conclusion that Vek’s extended break is going to work in his favor. Because he didn’t rush out a second album — and then a third — that sounded exactly like the first (but with not as good songs), we never got a chance to be disappointed in him, like with other bands of the time. And he hasn’t changed so much that people won’t realize it’s still him.
And people do remember Tom Vek, even if they don’t remember his name. I’ve played the album a few times in the video store where I clerk sometimes and ever time it’s on at least one person has come up and asked, “Hey isn’t this that guy who did ‘Nothing But Green Lights’?” or “Who is this? I know this?” And sometimes, “What is this? It’s really good.” Leisure Seizure still sounds like Tom Vek. The cocksure but laid back voice thick with British pronunciation like “you have an unfair advahntage.”* The sparse, exacting sound, never too many elements, slightly chopped, everything in it’s right place, yet not clinical. Imminently danceable. Of the moment.
Oh, and really good songs. I truly hope he hasn’t spent the last six years constantly working on Leisure Seizure but it seems clear Vek had no interest in releasing inferior product. You can get a taste via first single “A Chore” whose video is below. Vek’s style is instantly recognizable but fresh for 2011. (The video winks at Vek’s lengthy gap between albums.) But there are better songs on the record. “Aroused” is built around diced up samples (kind of Art of Noise-like) that come together piece by piece till the giant chorus kicks in and his awesome assemblage skills become apparent.
“We Do Nothing,” another likely single, starts with distant sounding keyboard loop and then kicks in with rat-at-rat drums and has distinct shades of “C-C (You Set the Fire in Me)” from We Have Sound. “A.P.O.L.O.G.Y.” has ping pong percussion and big funky guitars and an even bigger chorus, and might be the best song on the record. But then again album closer “Too Bad” is up there too, all loping beats and casual disinterest. There’s not a dud amongst Leisure Seizure‘s 12 tracks.
So I was right, Tom Vek’s second album is indeed something else. And while I’d rather us not wait another six years till it comes out, as long as it’s as good as your first two…please take your time.
Hopefully what he’ll be quick about is touring the States. I’m hearing we may see him — in NYC at least — over the summer. Cross your fingers. Some Tom Vek videos — including new single “A Chore” — are after the jump.
“A Chore” is out digitally tomorrow through all the usual places. Leizure Seizure hits stores on June 6. Here’s a track from We Have Sound to tide you over.
*Though he pronounces “Leisure” in an American way, so it rhymes with “Seizure.”