The peculiar direction that anarchic outfit Leg Puppy like to move in has seen them conjure up a strange and beguiling world in recent years. It’s a world of dark grooves, satire and social commentary that often highlights unsettling aspects of modern culture.
For instance, 2017’s ‘She’s Lost Her Soul’ drew attention to the changing music scene (which included a 5-day one-man silent disco protest conducted by Leg Puppy frontman Darren Laurence). The song also formed the foundation for a mini-documentary on the topic which concluded: “Corporations are killing our towns and turning them into identical Lego lands, it’s vitally important we keep culture alive.”
That changing face of the music industry has become a theme that Leg Puppy have revisited time and again, coupled with biting commentary on the rise of social media. 2019 album Non Disclosure Agreement (see review previously) explored this via the likes of ‘Nominate 10’ and ‘Twit Machine’. At the same time, it was an album that saw a mix of styles and approaches, including a softer line via the dreamy vibes of ‘Tears’ (featuring an excellent guest vocal from Voi Vang).
That eclectic approach on style was also evident on 2020’s A Guide To Social Distancing, which the TEC review summed up concisely as “a collection of music that embraces dark techno, beats, synth soundscapes and some social commentary wrapped up in one intriguing package.”
At times, Leg Puppy’s music can take on an oddly cryptic aspect. The concepts behind some compositions taking on a meaning that likely only makes sense inside Darren Laurence’s fervent imagination. It’s also not difficult to see the influences of outfits such as The Prodigy lurking in the DNA here; that electronic punk aesthetic is all over much of Leg Puppy’s work, although there’s still a unique style at work, rather than a simple aping of the iconic Essex collective.
So then, onto new album The Air in Utopia is Poison, Leg Puppy’s fifth studio album which again weaves in commentary, satire and punk grooves as you would expect. The album is prefaced with a wise quote from Peep Show’s legendary Super Hans: “If it feels good, do it”, which seems to be an apt motto to plunge into the album with.
‘Dick Pic’ is pretty much a song whose themes are accurately conveyed by the title. Apparently inspired by the experiences of friends, this darkly devious little composition delves into the world of dating apps and the convoluted – and often contradictory (“I like to go out/I like to stay in”) – ways that desperate people will employ to get attention. The unsettling piano helps to enhance the bleakness and emptiness at work here.
There’s a murkier clubby vibe at work on ‘Sync deal’, whose squelchy acid grooves provide the foundation for a cynical vision of music as a commodity.
‘Your Profile Is Dope’ revisits one of Leg Puppy’s favourite themes, that of social media and the whole LinkedIn culture. The flat spoken delivery of the lyrics adds to the dystopic mood, even as the unsettling grooves provide a weirdly hypnotic quality to the track.
The percussive ‘Algorithms You’re an Arsehole’ is an opportunity to take another dig at the world of social media, in this case the almighty Algorithm (“There’s a darkness on your face”). It’s a strange rhythmic fever dream, given brighter moments care of Evie Blue’s hypnotic vocal elements.
‘Turn it up Keith’ features the vocal talents of Violent Vickie on an electro punk workout that’s all bass beats and murky grooves. Lines such as “Tell me where to go/Beyond the physical” have an oddly disorientating feel to them.
Elsewhere, things take a psychedelic turn on the strangely titled ‘Cliff Richard (Are you Juicy?)’, while ‘Party Political Prat’ provides a brief interlude of topical samples.
Once again, artist Cristabel Christo provides a suitably unsettling painting to wrap the whole thing up in.
The Air in Utopia is Poison is a dark groove odyssey revealing an unnerving reflection of post-Brexit Britain. Never mind Black Mirror, this is more ‘Bleak Mirror’.
The Air in Utopia is Poison is out 27th August 2021: https://legpuppy.bandcamp.com/album/the-air-in-utopia-is-poison
Leg Puppy will be performing live at Vanishing Point @ AMP Studios on Thursday 2nd September 2021 alongside Gabrielle Sey and Naz & Ella. More details: https://demerararecords.com/vanishing-point/