I’ve been a fan of Leeds dark gaze band Last Tourist since the release of their 2020 single “Public Service / Are We Just Algorithms?” In my review, which you can read here, I mentioned their influences were bands like Joy Division, Interpol, Suicide, Diiv and The Jesus & Mary Chain. I also made mention that their sound was a heady concoction. That heady concoction has been brewing and their self-titled debut album is the result.
Since that singles release the bands, line up has evolved somewhat. Last Tourist feature John Wellby (guitar, vocals), Nick Noble (guitar, vocals), Adam Simpson (synth and programming), and Jason Booth (bass guitar, bass synth), with the album also featuring guest appearances from Whimsical’s Krissy Vanderwoude (vocals) and Slowdive’s Simon Scott (drums).
My excitement levels are piqued so let’s dive in.
The album opens on the soaring ‘Riding Seas’. The pulsing bass, like the song’s heartbeat, gives life to the glorious wash of guitars and synths. The band set their stall out early on, this is going to be quite a ride.
I’m into familiar territory next with the single ‘Public Service. When I covered this song previously, I said “Public Service” is a darkly glorious synthwave meets shoegaze blend. Shimmering synths fight with 10-foot-tall guitars for your attention. Powerful bass lines, entwined with moody vocals and rhythmic danceable drums complete this heady concoction.” I stand by that. What a track.
It’s another single next. ‘Cave in the Hills’. I liken the experience of listening to this song like watching a polaroid develop. The bare bones of the song are there at the start and as it develops more and more detail emerges until it presents itself in glorious technicolour.
‘Lust’ is a different proposition altogether. It arrives fully formed and assaults your senses. Darkly brooding chords play over sweeping synths and intricate drums. It’s sensory overload from the get go and you just lose yourself, surrendering to the experience. I particularly love the guitars on this one, always on the edge of feedback, just in control and no more. My kinda playing.
The pace drops for the melancholia swathed ‘Falling Into (Drone)’. The descending chords lock us into a sombre frame of mind. The opening section of the song would’ve sat happily on Disintegration by The Cure. Is there a higher compliment? It feels like we’re on a journey and like all journeys the end comes all too soon.
Next up we have the instant classic ‘Black Raven’. This song combines the pop sensibilities of Phil Spector with the soundscapes of Slowdive and Ride. The chorus has more hooks than a fisherman’s tackle box. When Wellby sings “Can’t resist always lost in my head” I defy you not to sing along.
My album highlight follows in ‘Fake Lust’. There’s something about the woozy guitar and measured vocal that really speaks to me. The intro is nothing short of epic with the band leaping in together. The chorus has some parallels with Joy Division however I will qualify that. Whilst I can hear that Ian Curtis influence, this is all Last Tourist. The elation in the chorus sets it apart, above and beyond to my ears.
There’s a short mood piece next in ‘Interval’. A tone poem to cleanse the palate as we head into ‘Lemon Twist’.
Vocals emerge through an incredibly dense and textured soundscape. With a knowing wink to The Mary Chain we are implored to “Kiss Kiss Lemon Twist”. What really impresses me about the production on this album is the space given to each instrument. Make no mistake there is a lot going on, but there’s a real clarity to every bass not and snare crack. Each guitar and synth note has its spot on the soundstage. This song absolutely exemplifies that.
We receive some soul nourishment next with the uplifting ‘Spiritual Cove’. If the brothers Reid ever dropped the wall of noise, they’d do well to cover this track. Wellby’s laid back drawl drapes itself all over the swathes of beauty conjured by the guitars and synths. The ever-increasing intensity of the fuzzed guitar adding a new and welcome texture. This is one beautiful song.
The album closes out on ‘Slow Moving Traffic’ another mood piece that blends synth swells creating a farewell to the listener. A really satisfying closer.
Last Tourist have laboured long and hard on this debut album. That is apparent in the quality of the tracks laid before us. More than that though. There is a soul on display here, a beating heart that reaches out from every song to bring you close. To share its story with you, share an embrace and then release you to the world. Better for having listened, experienced.
Last Tourist is out now with vinyl variants available for preorder from Bandcamp.
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