I was first turned on to Neil Leyton through the fabulous Changes One mailing list, a UK-based discussion group that had an eclectic and fanatical drive for honest, uncompromising rock and roll artists. Leyton fits the bill, and I’m ashamed that I don’t pull his stuff off the shelf more often than I do. Or that I never knew about his Canadian glam band Conscious Pilate…
The Brighter Side of Her Midnight Sun is a seventeen-track melting pot of rock, folk, glam and spoken word, and for the most part it both stands together and holds up well for a seven-year old release. The track listing is split into two sides with verbose titles that are at once intriguing and foreboding:
- The Insufferable Permanent Ennui of The Soul side, and
- The Permanent Damage & Unimaginable Consequence side
Occasionally irresistibly earworm and sometimes simply jarring to the senses, you can almost tell by the song titles when things are going to get pensive and murky (“The Confraternity of The Faithless”) and when you could probably parse a track for a pop mix tape (“Once Upon A Yesterday”, “Whispers”).
Dedicated to his “chess playing Communist grandfather”, the album is rampant with political and social commentary, but with few exceptions not at the expense of the music. Hell, there’s enough between song chatter, interludes and reprises galore tying the whole thing together that a second and third listen expose new turns of phrase, more musical nuances. I most often got a David Bowie-meets-Bryan Ferry vibe, but that’s because Leyton is an expressive vocalist and many of the tracks are deeply rooted in glam. Besides the aforementioned tracks, I really like “Staring”, “Nine” and the epic nine-minute closer, “Twilight of the Gods”.
Maybe it’s not for everyone, but what is?
Neil’s done a bunch more before and since, including walking the walk as a vocal advocate regarding the paradigm shift in music distribution; his label Fading Ways being a forerunner. And as for Changes One – Good on yer, Ian Tunstull, wherever ye are.
Fading Ways website