Cleveland's PLEASURE LEFTISTS return with "The Gate", a new ten song album of cathartic, riveting post-punk excellence. The long-running group, comprised of veteran players in the Clevo scene, have turned in what is arguably their best recorded output - and the first since 2015's "The Woods of Heaven". For "The Gate", PL ventured out to Portland, OR in March 2019 to record on tape with Stan Wright (Arctic Flowers) - and the results are massive. Those familiar with previous PL material will immediately feel reacquainted with the group's masterful arrangements and cool, confident execution - a style that draws from the early British post-punk classics on labels like 4AD and Factory Records, but retains an organic, original sound that few contemporary acts harness. While "The Gate" undoubtedly benefits from the best studio sound of any PL release to date, the musicianship is what makes this album feel like an absolutely classic piece of work. The tones are perfect - almost as though Greg Sage dialed them in for a Wipers record. You'll immediately be taken by Haley Morris's vocal range and projection, which shines across the entire album and is absolute next level work. The sheer artistic quality of the songwriting is propelled along in perfect rhythm, as the guitar and bass play off of each other wonderfully, beginning the album with "In Dreams", which sets the tense and urgent nature of the tracks that follow. "The Return" dials the pace back slightly, allowing room for one of Morris's most memorable vocal patterns. As "Phenomenon" emerges from cold drone to begin the second half of the album, it quickly becomes apparent that PL have crafted a master work here. "Dancing in the Dark" could be a lost Homostupids track adapted to PL's sensibilities, followed along by the charging title track, and the gripping closer, "The Sign". Pleasure Leftists leave us with a phenomenal batch of tracks on "The Gate" - a gleaming, timeless piece of work.
Our take: Fourth 12” release from this Cleveland post-punk band, coming a full four years after their last one, The Woods of Heaven, on Deranged Records in 2015. If you are familiar with Pleasure Leftists’ previous records, you know they have a well-developed style: a melodic take on post-punk with powerful, Siouxsie-esque vocals, heavy chorus on the guitar, and memorable bass lines over a steady drumbeat. A lot of bands have copped this style, but Pleasure Leftists were way ahead of the curve when their first record came out in 2011. The Gate continues to explore that framework, with the band finding new wrinkles without changing their style. The opening track, “In Dreams,” is one of the most melodic the band has ever done, with a sound fit for mainstream radio, while tracks like “Try the Door” and “Phenomenon” feature complex, almost math-y interplay between the guitar and bass. Pleasure Leftists are very Rust Belt in their approach, continuing to ply their trade and hone their craft despite the prevailing winds of larger musical trends. Pleasure Leftists fans will certainly want to check out The Gate, but even if you’re new to the band this is as good a place as any to dip into their discography.