Album Review: The Persian Leaps - Bicycle Face

The Twin Cities based trio, The Persian Leaps, do not mince when it comes to music—they write concise, jangly songs that channel the aesthetic of late 1980s and early 1990s post-punk, power pop, and alternative rock, and they don’t mess around while doing it.

Originally a vanity solo project for guitarist and vocalist Drew Forsberg, he turned the Leaps in to an actual ‘band’ in 2012, and the group released its first EP the following year—subsequent efforts (all five song EPs) have arrived, practically like clockwork, every fall since then.

The fall of 2017 is no different for the band, as they release their fifth effort, the charming and esoterically titled Bicycle Face, via Forsberg’s own Land Ski imprint.

Bicycle Face continues to find the band paying homage to early Teenage Fanclub, IRS-era R.E.M., Built to Spill, and to some extent, Bob Mould’s projects Husker Du and Sugar. It also finds Forsberg continuing to ease into his role as a songwriter, crafting catchy, explosive tunes that are shadowed by lyrics with slight ambiguity.

The EP opens strong with “Picture My Reaction,” a song that boasts huge, crunchy guitar chords, steady pummeling drums from Mike McCloskey, and a rumbling low end from bassist Adam Brunner—a formula that never really loses its momentum as they managed to carry it through the entire effort.

That spirit continues on “On The Downside,” anchored by a rollicking and jaunty bass line, and into the dual guitar layers of “Even Less”—one shimmery, one with the distortion turned up high. It’s also on “Even Less” that Forsberg shifts his lyrical imagery from ambiguous phrases to something slightly more personal, or at the very least, more self-deprecating: “If I was nothing when I was with you, I’m even less than that right now,” he deadpans in the song’s refrain.

While trying not to worry about the lions (metaphorical or literal is unclear) on “About The Lions,” the group adds a slightly serious bend to the music, though they also toss in handclaps and quickened tambourine shaking to try and lighten things up.

Bicycle Face concludes with its shortest, possibly most ominous or menacing song—I mean as menacing or ominous as a jangly, pop-oriented band like The Persian Leaps can get. “I can’t breathe in your rules,” Forsberg shouts in the song’s refrain, which becomes a mantra of sorts. “A pushpin’s in my spine, fixing me in place, to keep me in line. You know I can’t move now, so what are you scared of?”

What are you scared of?” is the last line heard before the song comes to a startling end—and as the slight reverb on the guitar fades out, you’re left with that question. It’s a surprising way to end the EP on such a serious note—especially since the band themselves seem to have a relatively good sense of humor (it is named Bicycle Face, after all.)

Part of the ‘thing’ with The Leaps, aside from the fact that they release a five-song EP every fall, is that each EP runs roughly 15 minutes in length. Now on EP number five, the trio has now probably exceeded the 80 available minutes on a CD-R with their canon of material. With Bicycle Face, the music is crisper sounding when compared to the ramshackle, loose sonics of last year’s Your City, Underwater and 2015’s High & Vibrate, and it finds The Persian Leaps continuing to successfully expand within the confines they’ve given themselves, though according to a news update about the EP's release show, it seems they have grown as much as they can- the 'band' is calling it a day after this, and it is returning to its roots as a solo outing for Forsberg. 

Bicycle Face is out on Sept. 22nd, via Land Ski Records.