Wednesday, September 21, 2005

MP3: Leatherface Revisited

Leatherface have always been a band that got little attention from the mainstream press, only really being talked about through the underground punk scene, through John Peel and through the NME for a very short time. It seems that at the moment they're more obscure than ever, and although the band are still releasing records, it's likely that they'll remain so for the forseeable future. Especially when they're using the sort of artwork they did on their last album (more on that later).

Leatherface were formed by legendary singer, guitarist and songwriter Frankie Stubbs in Sunderland in the late 1980's, and immediately made an impression on the British scene with their Tom Waits meets Replacements meets Stiff Little Fingers sound. From their very first record, 1989's 'Cherry Knowle', it's Stubbs voice and lyrics that takes center stage, and like Tom Waits he manages to somehow communicate through his songs the sense that there's just about nothing he hasn't experienced and can't observe in the most perfectly melancholy way. It's something to do with the way that Frankie's voice points to him having seemingly ingested more whiskie and cigarettes than 500 of his equals combined. The band went on to release the aptly named 'Beerpig' EP the following year, featuring the track Ghetto from their debut as well as three other songs.

Later that year a single named 'Razor Blades And Aspirin' appeared shortly before the album that it featured on, the now out of print (as far as I can tell) 'Fill Your Boots'. Never ones to take things slowly, 1990 also saw Leatherface releasing the 5 song 'Smokey Joe' EP, the lead track of which, 'How Lonely', would feature on the bands next album (the album that they will surely be remembered for, if they are remembered), 1991's 'Mush'.

I really shouldn't have to say that 'Mush' is an incredible punk rock record. If it was a sane world, everybody would own this album (just as they would own 'Trout Mask Replica' and 'Raindogs'), but alas other than an underpromoted reissue a few years, this looks to be another classic record, like for example, The Wedding Present's 'Seamonsters', that will be remembered by fewer and fewer people as time goes on. Preceeded by the single 'Not Superstitious', 'Mush' features 12 solid gold tracks of pure amazing superb fantasticness. It really is that great, and serves as a reminder that just because there are 10 million awful repetitive untalented punk bands in the world, it doesn't mean that punk rock can't still be as affecting as it was back in 77. 'Mush' could be called Emo if Emo entailed owning testicles, not being a rich pretty boy, and actually knowing anything about pain and suffering. REAL emotional music, amazingly played.

Another single from 'Mush', the classic 'I Want The Moon', also appeared in 1991. Amidst constant touring, 1992 saw the release of the four track 'Compact And Bijou' EP, one of the first Leatherface release to include an acoustic song, in this case 'Pale Moonlight'. These acoustic tracks, and acoustic versions of normally electric songs, went on to be amongst the highlights of the bands later records. After releasing another 7" single that year (featuring the tracks 'Dreaming' and 'Eagle'), and another 4 track single named 'Do The Right Thing' (again featuring acoustic versions of past album tracks), Leatherface prepared to release the much anticipated followup to 'Mush'.

1993's 'Minx' isn't quite up to the standards of its predecessor (maybe something to do with two members of the band leaving shortly after its completion), but its still pretty damn fantastic, especially due to the inclusion of tracks like the aforementioned 'Do The Right Thing', 'Pale Moonlight' and the beautiful 'Skin Deep'. Frankie Stubbs and drummer Andrew Laing struggled on to release three more singles: one a cover of 'Can't Help Falling In Love', the next the rather great 'Win Some Lose Some', and finally the solid gold classic that is 'Little White God'. The last two singles went on to feature on what would be the last Leatherface album before Stubbs laid the band name to rest, the aptly named 'The Last'. Another GREAT album in a line of great albums, 'The Last' would in fact not be the band's last record (see how I fooled you there).

Frankie Stubbs worked on a number of solo projects, working under the names Pope and Jessie as well as his own, and a number of posthumous records were released to satisfy the bands rabid following, including a live album (1995's 'Live In Oslo'), a split live album with Jawbox (1995's 'Your Choice Live') and two Discography albums collecting songs from the bands back catalogue. Due to a surge of interest in the bands old records, Frankie reformed the band in 1998 in order to tour America. A split album with the rather ace Hot Water Music appeared on BYO records in 1999. The first track on the record was named 'Andy', and is dedicated to the bands long standing bassist who had committed suicide. It is an amazing song. 2000 saw the release of an incredible full length comeback, 'Horsebox', which is probably almost as strong as 'Mush', though quite different, and is notable for including great covers of Cyndi Laupers' 'True Colo(u)rs' and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' 'Ship Song'.

The band continue to tour and just last year released a great record on BYO called 'Dog Disco'. It does however feature one of the worst album covers i've seen in my entire life. You'll see what I mean in a minute. Truly horrendous. A live DVD called 'Boat In The Smoke' is either due for release soon or out now, but i'm not sure because I can't seem to find it anywhere.

This article has gone on a bit so i'll stop now, but suffice to say Leatherface are an incredibly underrated and undeservedly obscure band, and really deserve your attention. The MP3s below are 'I Want The Moon' and 'Springtime' from 'Mush', plus the acoustic version of 'Skin Deep' taken from the 'Do The Right Thing' single. Hope you like them as much as I do. For more info on Leatherface you can check out their horrific official website, this out of date but very informative unofficial website, or the up to date, informative and all round fantastic Shipyards site, which also contains a bunch of MP3s including some Peel Sessions that are well worth a listen. Enjoy.

Download: I Want The Moon - MP3 2.26mb (rapidshare)
Download: Springtime - MP3 2.64mb (rapidshare)
Download: In My Life (acoustic) - MP3 3.73mb (rapidshare)

Discography: (incomplete, but only these are available at amazon)
(click to buy at

Cherry Knowle - 1989

Mush - 1991

Minx - 1993

Do The Right Thing (single) - 1993

The Last - 1994

Split with Hot Water Music - 1999

Horsebox - 2000

Dog Disco - 2004


Anonymous keith said...

A terrific post. Mush is probably the record I've played most out of all the vinyl,cd's and tapes I own. Never ceases to amaze me that more people have never heard this record, but if you ever meet someone that has, you'll find a kindred spirit.

I don't really remember John Peel playing too much Leatherface. However, I do recall lying in bed listening to Mark Radcliffe late one night on the radio when 'I want the moon' came on, and thinking "I'll remember this moment for the rest of my life".

10:55 pm, September 21, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for another great post. I was late getting into Leatherface, and unfortunately the mp3's at the sites you mentioned above are really low bitrate, so it's hard to get much of an impression. -- jonhope

1:03 am, September 22, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recommend Leatherface to tons of people. I see them as an incredible mix of motorhead & Husker Du. Legendary.

3:12 am, October 07, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that's probably the best summary i've read about LF. Leatherface are just fantastic. A legend indeed. I bought my first LF CD back in '92 or '93 (don't remember exactly) and from that moment on they have been No 1 on my list of best bands ever heard (together with Husker Du.. :-)
I listen to their music almost daily and never get tired of it! unlike millions of other bands...

for people interested : also try to get a copy of Frankie's acoustic records. they are 'truly beautiful'...

Great post! thx

10:13 pm, October 08, 2005  
Anonymous Al said...

Well said! Without a doubt the best band I have every heard. Was lukcy enough to meet Frankie a few weeks back, such a nice bloke!

7:52 pm, October 21, 2005  
Blogger Colonel Knowledge said...

An excellent band, despite being Sunderland supporters.

I saw them in Manchester in 1991. They were very good. Like Snuff, they were partial to a daft punk rock cover version, which were a lot of fun, but may have distracted attention from their own material.

6:33 pm, October 22, 2005  
Anonymous Chris M. said...

I remember seeing them back on their US tour in 98 and that was the first time I was ever exposed to Leatherface. Hearing "Bowl of Flies" on a zine comp. sometime later sealed the deal. They really are the most underappreciated band even in the underground punk scene. You won't believe how few US punks know them.

8:13 am, December 02, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

seen them many times and they are, without a seconds thought, the best live act i've ever seen. the records - disregarding horsebox - are also outstanding.

2:00 am, December 18, 2005  
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frankie Stubbs, Mush and Leatherface have soundtracked my life since the late 80's. They played the 2nd Stage at reading circa 90/91 and John Peel who was DJing said something like 'the best thing he'd seen for years'.

Went to see them in Sunderland about 2002 [?] with Hot Water Music and they were fantastic. It was filmed for Punk Rock TV but don't know if it ever came out. [I'm a fat blissed out baldy at the front if it did!]

It was a friendly hometown gig but I was too in awe to speak to Stubbs. They wouldn't play Springtime despite lots of requests - shame gotta be one of their best songs. Still haven't decided if Stubbs has feet or castors - he just glides when 'dancing'. Michael Jackson couldn't master his moves - even on half a gallon of Jesus Juice.

Never knew that Cherry Knowle was Sunderlands victorian sounding lunatic asylum until my dad told me as I passed through the town at a family funeral. I'm sure that its part of the humour of the band that works through a lot of the songs and especially in some of their interviews available on the web.

Anyway Stubbs is at the very least a Saint Of Sunderland. His songwriting is sharp, summing up thoughts and emotions clearly and concisely. Theres a song out at the moment going on about a cup of water finding its way to the ocean - compare that to 'A piss in the Atlantic' from Bowl Of Flies. No competion.

There may be a tinge of sadness / world weariness about a few of the songs but that is tempered by the fact that, arguably, you somehow know that beheind the sadness there is a huge capacity for love - of people and the world.

2:42 pm, May 11, 2007  

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