Pleasure Craft 
Walls, Mirrors and Windows

Independent • 2022

Pleasure Craft’s Walls, Mirrors and Windows brings the concept album into the streaming age.

When I was in middle school, I was obsessed with The Wall. I got a CD copy one Christmas from my dad, in the 7th grade, I think, and listened to the whole thing (1 hour, 21 minutes, 3 seconds), in sequence, several times a week for at least a year. In the 8th grade, my girlfriend (lol) bought me a The Wall t-shirt with the, ahem, “dancing”  flowers from the 1982 film adaptation of the album on it. I wore it to school every week. I, of course, watched the film on VHS many times, including once with the aforementioned girlfriend. She did not like it. I scribbled lyrics and drew the characters on notebooks while my teacher droned. I took the lyric “We don’t need no education” very seriously, especially when thinking about The Wall during math class. I learned how to (roughly) play every song on the album on bass. Busting out the lead bass part from “Hey You” was my pride and glory. The “In the Flesh?” riff was the toughest in my arsenal. 

Beyond the music, I think what makes an album like The Wall so compelling to a young mind (or any mind) is the story. I was so invested and interested in Pink’s journey from a young boy with daddy issues and war trauma to a hedonistic rockstar that I couldn’t help but hear it again and again. It is the ultimate rock opera and the ultimate story of rock music and stardom. They don’t make rock operas anymore ( which is mostly for the best) but sometimes I find myself craving narrative. It doesn’t have to bash you over the head, but if an album is just a collection of songs, its chances of hooking my interest are always slightly lower.

Enter Walls, Mirrors and Windows, the debut full-length from Pleasure Craft, the musical project of Toronto-based Lizard King Sam Lewis. Lewis is a student of music: both history and the art itself, having attended Humber College in Toronto to study jazz performance and composition on trumpet. While Lewis may or may not have had a The Wall phase, it’s clear that he is a student of classic rock and pop (I would define this as anything released before or up to 1999), and he puts all he has learned to work on this enrapturing album.

The album follows a semi-fictional character on a journey of healing the damages “dominant cultural constructs of manhood and masculinity” cause. And it ponders how to “unstitch the violence sewn and socialized into people raised under those constructs.” Unfolding over three acts (Walls, Mirrors and finally Windows), Lewis presents a vitally-critical picture of masculinity while examining those toxic traits with empathy and an uncomfortable level of understanding. These are muddy waters, but Lewis navigates them brilliantly. The album’s flow lends itself well to the dissection, with each part having a slightly different musical palette. 

That discomfort is apparent from the jump. On the swaggering “Champion,” Lewis sounds like an animal, writhing and violent. “Cocking my gun, it’s already begun, gonna get my game on”, he croons on the sexy but scary “Bag Down,” the metaphor is obvious on the page but even more so on the record. “Bag Down” is buoyed by Mingia Chen’s backing vocals – a highlight across the entire album. They serve as a light against the darkness and brightly showcase Lewis’s penchant for weird jazz chords and polyrhythms. The industrial grind of Walls leads the way to Mirrors, where the swagger is stripped away for something a little more inward and angry, but no less groovy. Lewis’s skill as a melodist is best displayed on “Silver Green”’s gorgeous and searching chorus, sounding like Julian Casablancas fronting Nine Inch Nails. The album’s climax comes at the end of “Dead Weight,” as pummeling double kicks give way to the theatrical “Actor,” where the album’s anti-hero finally tears down the wall.

Windows is perhaps the most remarkable portion of the album. The section’s prelude sounds like light shining through tiny cracks, a well-earned feeling after the first two acts. “Waking Up” is a classic bit of rock opera fare, a piano-based confessional that Bowie, Rogers, or Reznor could have written. When the trumpet signals at the beginning of “Nothing Ever Happens” – which, honest to goodness, might be the best Strokes song never written – Lewis finally reveals himself from behind the mask he has been wearing. He has made it through the trial of his life, and while he acknowledges there is always work to do, understanding how he got here makes moving along seem just a bit less heavy. Do I follow every beat of the story of Walls, Mirrors and Windows? Absolutely not, but this is a record that leaves you invested in its arc and its musical journey from swaggering industrial to throbbing post-punk to groove-heavy indie rock. I would listen to Lewis kick at the darkness til it bleeds daylight over and over again, and mercifully, this record is only a third as long as The Wall.

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