Album Review: Wreckless Eric – Leisureland

If your only knowledge of Wreckless Eric is “Whole Wide World,” you’re in for a treat. The man has been on a sustained creative peak for ages now. He left Stiff Records in 1980 and has since made records more on his own terms, though for some years he wasn’t especially prolific as a solo artist. That’s since been remedied: starting in 2015 or so, Wreckless Eric (Goulding) has released a new collection of songs every couple-few years. A particular highlight is 2018’s Construction Time & Demolition, an album I named among that year’s best.

Leisureland seems destined for a similar fate here at Musoscribe World HQ. Eric’s songs are carefully crafted, uncluttered yet layered, catchy in the extreme, and intelligent without being self-consciously clever. There’s a folky mindset at the core of his approach, but a folkie he ain’t. I’d place him more in that rarefied category of British Isles troubadours (see also: Billy Bragg, Thomas Walsh, Declan McManus, Graham Parker, etc.).

Even when he sets aside lyrics (as on the impressionistic instrumental “Inside the Majestic” there’s a powerful sense of narrative – the feeling that there’s a story here even if the words are absent – that makes Eric’s music wonderfully engaging and inviting. Variety is a prominent feature: The sonic flourishes that adorn the brief linking track “Intermission” give it a Pet Sounds feel, and “Standing Water” explores a sound that recalls Orgone Box and/or Robyn Hitchcock.

The production aesthetic on Leisureland is reminiscent of modern-day Martin Newell, which is ot say that it places songcraft at the center of things, and wraps sturdy songs in arrangements that highlight the songs’ myriad strengths. Oh, and it’s professionally produced but never, ever slick. If you’re wise, you’ll put Leisureland on your must-hear list.