World Leader Pretend's debut album, Punches, is hands down one of the brightest albums of 2005. This New Orleans band, which rotates between four and five members, has composed a set of songs that boast desire, imagination, and a heavy heart. These 14 songs dance with an innocent energy that is without pretense. Only recently have bands such as Doves, Travis, and Keane made sounds akin to this that are embraceable enough for alternative rock. Finally, an American band pulls it off -- brilliantly no less. Album opener "Bang Theory" sets the album's golden tone with its majestic string and piano arrangements. From there, the more delicate "Tit for Tat" and "Love Dovey" highlight the band's overall boyish charm. "Dreamdaddy" and "New Voices" build upon that notion but expand World Leader Pretend's feverish presentation. Drummer Arthur Mintz gives a powerful performance throughout. Singer/songwriter Keith Ferguson wears his heart on his sleeve -- while smiling. He doesn't proclaim himself or his band to be saviors of rock & roll; they don't wish to be the elder statesmen of an educated generation, unlike Coldplay. Even though World Leader Pretend go large on Punches, it isn't all pop grandeur. They pop up their middle digits to the system for the sake of being brash and arty. On "B.A.D.A.B.O.O.M." they go wild, surrounded by a boisterous horn section, yet saunter through campy spoken word and a whooping punk rock rant. The vivaciousness of "Punches" does the same while pleading, "Tell me what it is I'm supposed to feel." The answer is clear: World Leader Pretend give their blood, sweat, and tears on this album. Their heart is in their hands. Ambition has never sounded so good.
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AllMusic Review by MacKenzie Wilson