Leatherface – [Album]

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Some records – whether they're brand new or not – have this sort of lived-in quality that will just set a mind at ease when they start playing. It might be the lyrics that speak just right or the guitar tone that feels like the listener is sitting in the eye of a storm, or a rhythm section that strikes just the right chord in a listener but, whatever it is, it just feels like home. That's the sort of feeling that The Stormy Petrel – Leatherface's first album released since 2004's Dog Disco and also the first on the band's own label – imbues in listeners. That isn't to say the band has chucked the melodic punk and hardcore strains that first drew fans in over the last twenty-two years and ventured to the more steadied center of adult contemporary mediocrity (far from it), just that from the opening minor chord torrent of “God Is Dead,” there is a fantastic balance struck between sweet songwriting and sour sentiments that invites listeners in before presenting them with more power and raw ecstatic disturbance than most would be able to handle in one shot.

From the moment singer Frankie Stubbs opens his mouth and utters the words, “God is dead” – his voice cracked with abuse and strained with a resigned anger and frustration that you know you've felt before yourself – to open the album, he's got listeners locked in and hypnotized for the long haul through the album. That voice is a treasure and, backed with the wildly emotive sonics supplied by Philliskirk, drummer Stefan Musch and guitarist Dickie Hammond, it creeps straight down to the bone marrow of anyone listening. While it's clear in songs like “My World's End,” Never Say Goodbye,” “Nutcase” and “Broken” that each of the band members is struggling with a sense of frustration that isn't perfectly defined (the closest to an exacting form and description of what's going on comes when Stubbs cordially invites listeners into hell with the line, “Welcome to my world's end”), the upside to that sort of open-ended presentation is that listeners can enter the songs, read into them how they choose and take away a validation that is unique for them and somehow vivid; the way the songs are written implies the staple structures of a half-dozen music genres (including some post-punk, the darker end of the Brit-pop spectrum, some alternative rock and even a little folk), but the final aftertaste is largely dependent on the sensibilities of the individual listener more than it is dependent upon the creative drive of the band.

That said, while it might sound coy, the secret in best experiencing the music on The Stormy Petrel lies in just exactly how much a listener wants to put in to the album. It's not that the album is emotionally vacant (again, far from it) but, rather, a listener is capable of projecting themselves into the music and it will, in turn, comfort them, console them, soothe nerves, raise adrenaline, coax them, cajole them, incite them or disarm them and more – each possibility being totally dependent upon what that listener brought in with them on their way through the front door. That open emotional canvas may be Leatherface's secret weapon hidden in The Stormy Petrel; depending on the day, a listener may get something completely different in return each time they listen. In that way, it could be said that The Stormy Petrel is the gift of an album that keeps on giving.


Further Reading:
Interview with Leatherface bassist Graeme Philliskirk and guitarist Dickie Hammond on Ground Control.

The Stormy Petrel
comes out on February 22, 2010 via Big Ugly Fish in the UK and on February 23, 2010 in North America through No Idea. Pre-order it here on Amazon or from the band's own label, Big Ugly Fish, here .

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