Frankie Stubbs - Acoustic 10" (2001)
I've always wondered why Leatherface aren't held in higher regard by more people in Britain. They're probably one of my favourite British groups of all time, and they're also far ahead of most of the bands I would put in that category in regards to actually having a long lasting emotional effect on me. They've managed to combine the passion of punk with sometimes esoteric and quite unprofessional styles of composition and playing, all whilst tackling very down to earth, quite working class and rather northern subject matters. They're romantic whilst remaining earthy and funny, they're melancholic but can still rock pretty hard, and in Frankie Stubbs they have one of the most distinctive lyrical and indeed physical voices in British amateur (wannabe) pop; a sort of lower-class British prophet, a northern pub-rather-than-bar dwelling Tom Waits. At times Stubbs talent for obscure and amusing references also resembles that of Half Man Half Biscuit's Nigel Blackwell. Musically, I think the wikipedia description fits them rather well: a mixture of Husker Du and Motorhead. And what could be better than that?
They formed in Sunderland in 1988, and within a year had released their debut album Cherry Knowle on Meantime. It's a nice enough debut, but the songwriting skills weren't really defined yet. 1990's Fill Your Boots was much better, and that LP as well as the Smokey Joe EP bought them to the attention of John Peel, who they recorded a number of sessions for across the early 90s. Within the next year they would take a quantum leap and produce by far their most consistent and critically celebrated work, Mush, which featured such classics as I Want The Moon, Not A Day Goes By, Not Superstitious and Springtime. It's one of my favourite ever British LPs, and perhaps my favourite punk LP after Zen Arcade and The Clash. Their 1993 followup Minx was somewhat of a disappointment in comparison, but still carried such melodic wonders as Do The Right Thing and Heaven Sent. They split up in 1994 after releasing one final mini album, The Last, the highlight of which is no doubt the stunning Little White God single.
Thankfully Stubbs continued to work, producing some great stuff under projects called Pope and Jesse, both worth seeking out (especially the Jessie cover of NY's Hey Hey My My!). The reissue of some of their earlier work in America, as well as many American bands such as Hot Water Music and later Dillinger Four praising their work inspired Stubbs to reform Leatherface in 1998, sadly without long time bassist Andy Crighton who had committed suicide a few years before. A stunning song about him formed the centerpiece of their first new release, a split album with Hot Water Music that proved them to still be an incredibly powerful band. 2000 saw a new full length, Horsebox, which is probably only second to Mush in their entire discography, and despite one of the most shockingly awful covers i've ever seen, 2004's Dog Disco was also highly enjoyable. Fans of emotionally charged passionate British pop music be warned; a life without Leatherface is a pretty stupid one.
Tonight I thought i'd post a rather nice project that Frankie released a few years into the band's reformation. It was a 10" solo mini album of acoustic recordings which featured a few new songs (Second Hand Suit, Sail Boats and the grrreat Old Elvis), one oldie (the Mush classic Dead Industrial Atmosphere), and two covers. The production is lovely, the performances and arrangements equally so. Enjoy!
Frankie Stubbs - 01 Second Hand Suit
Frankie Stubbs - 02 Old Elvis
Frankie Stubbs - 03 Sail Boats
Frankie Stubbs - 04 Dead Industrial Atmosphere
Frankie Stubbs - 05 I Can't Help Falling In Love
Frankie Stubbs - 06 Ship Song