I have a pretty lame story about how I found Leatherface but it does explain a little about the band. When I was in Grade 9, I was playing in a band called Indifference, and I had been writing the songs on a piano, but they had gotten to the level of complexity where I figured I needed to play guitar, and couldn't just sing anymore. Of course, my parents, upset enough that I was playing in a "Punk" band, certainly wouldn't pay for guitar lessons, (though my father bought me a guitar, which I still have, much to the chagrin of my mother.) So I learned the only way I could, by buying Guitar magazines, which were typically filled to the brim with the latest hair metal, Van Halen and random Metal band licks.
To this day I can still play Battery, Smoke on the Water, and Wish You were Here.
I've probably embarrased us all by admitting I know Deep Purple and Pink Floyd songs, but I digress.
Anyhow, buried in one of these magazines filled with men with extremely tight pants, and disturbingly large hair, was a review of a little known English band called "Leatherface" I recall still that the reviewer wrote that he hated punk, and in no uncertain terms. (The obscenities flew) but Leatherface, he admitted had the best damn guitarist he had ever heard. Of course, finding Leatherface in Oakville, would be like finding a person who wasn't White, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant; that is to say, nearly impossible.
By a weird coincedence, a friend of mine, was on her way to England for a brief exchange. She asked if I wanted anything, and I had one request. I equipped her with money, and patiently awaited her return with this new band. If you think waiting for mailorder sucks, try waiting for a semester for someone to get you one CD.
That record she brought back was Leatherface's Minx and it blew my mind. Frankie Stubbs sounded like a drunk Joe Strummer, and played guitar like a guitar god, who didn't know, or didn't care that he could wipe the floor with just about every solo playing, musical masturbating guitarist in every other band in that magazine.
Of course, this review is for The Last titled since it was the semi-final record from the band, which originally broke up back then, though recently reformed to take part in a split with Hot Water Music, and then release some new material.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that this disc in fact was originally an EP, but this recent BYO release adds an EP from Frankie Stubbs' post/pre-Leatherface band, Pope, and since he wrote and sang most of the material for both bands, it's a seamless transition.
So how is the damn record you ask? (Probably also asking "How can he talk so damn much in a review without actually mentioning much about the record")
Well, it's brilliant. Minx was a terrific record, so was Cherry Knowle. So was Smokey Joe. Mush was especially good too.
But with The Last, Stubbs' reached the peak of his emotional, complex soundwriting, and the melodies on the guitars have as much harmony, and elegant beauty as you could hope for.
It opens with "Little White God" where he sings "We can't live like whores, babes and children. We can live 'Lord of the Flies', it's indicative. We can live by, we can live and buy. He's in love with the rotten old world. He's so in love, he'll take it in the arm of his girl. He's in love with a little white god, he's so in love he's forgotten about being a mod. He's in love and destructive, demonstrative. " The number of complex subjects tackled in the one track reflect the brilliance of the entire EP.
Highlights? Well, Leatherface doesn't write songs, they just write albums, and the track markings seem to be just where they came up with a new hook, or a new theme, so the highlight is the entire thing.
Overall, I can probably write a few more thousand words about this, but you're not likely to read it, nor am I writer enough to pull if off, so I'll leave you with this.
Few bands manage to create such an impressive back catalog, and push the envelope so consistently and thoroughly. I admit it's not for everyone, and it's definitely an acquired taste; Frankie's vocals are harsh, and make Hot Water Music sound positively clean, but his drunken-sounding rasp carries so much emotion that you ignore the limited range he sings in.
This is an essential record, nevertheless, and given the chance, you will love it, and you will be blown away; just like I was years ago.