What’d happen if a metal guitarist and an acoustic singer-songwriter came together to make an album? And during a pandemic no less? For Gardner Leonard the result was a pleasing 11 tracks of buzzy pop-punk.
Hailing from Stourbridge, West Midlands – Gardner Leonard are Daryl Gardner and Rhiannon Leonard. Gardner is probably best known for his 2015 re-recording of Metallica’s St.Anger. It was in early 2020 , already armed with some material, that he recruited old college friend Leonard and what was originally a 5-track EP became full record ‘milquetoast’.
If you’re unfamiliar with the word – its often used to refer to someone or something that is feeble or dull. And while the full album isn’t set to be let out into the world until mid-January 2021 – even the handful of singles released give us a taste that is anything but bland.
Skilled multi-instrumentalist Gardner takes on guitar, drums and bass on the record while Leonard’s contrastingly sweet yet punchy vocals dance across the tracks. As an emo/pop-punk outfit with a female singer, the duo are bound to draw comparisons with the Paramore’s and Tonight Alive’s of the scene – and while there’s a definite nod to these acts – Gardner Leonard manage to bring a charm all of their own.
Debut single ‘Wish It Was Me’, which kicks off the album, pulls you in straight from the off. Giving us some pure throwback All Time Low vibes, its a tale of hometown unrequited love. With an energetic melody and sing-a-long chorus. Similarly sophomore single ‘Say The Word’ – takes on the lost love theme albeit in a heavier way. Much more post-hardcore in sound, Gardner Leonard take inspiration from the likes of Funeral For A Friend on this one.
Other stand out tracks include ‘Conspiracy’ and ‘Your Ghost’ for very different reasons. The former ponders suspicions of a lover’s intentions. It’s beat heavy with a pre-chorus so catchy it demands to be screamed back by the crowd. In contrast, ‘Your Ghost’ starts much slower and gradually builds to a chorus with an almost spiralling guitar riff.
A guaranteed favourite, ‘Mine’ is not only an earworm of a track but an incredibly powerful one. The lyrics deal with self-empowerment and taking back your life after an abusive possessive relationship. Despite the serious topic, there’s a poppy Hayley Williams flavour to the verses with a heavier feel to the chorus as Leonard affirms “I’ll be fine / Take back what’s mine”
Closing track ‘One Two Three Four’ is a break from form with a lighter, slower feel. A quieter approach to the rest – there’s keys, synthy strings, and finger clicks. Leonard’s vocals go from echoed and isolated to layered in this building moody electro number.
‘milquetoast’ is a polished record from the duo that is sure to satisfy your 00’s pop-punk nostalgia. Relatable, dancable and packing a punch – its a perfect recipe of the bouncy, beat heavy, breakdowns and in-your-face lyricism synonymous with the genre.