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Leatherface 

Dog Disco

Wednesday, Apr 21 2004
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There's an apt shorthand for describing England's Leatherface to the uninitiated: "Hüsker Dü meets Motörhead!," exclamation mark included. It's true, there's no denying the similarities between the broguey, sandpapery voice of Leatherface's Dickensian-named singer, Frankie Stubbs, and that of Motörhead's Lemmy Kilminster. True, too, no one makes a din ring with hooks the way Leatherface does without first being enthralled by '80s post-hardcore icons Hüsker Dü. But it's not Leatherface's resemblance to other bands that has made its literate, high-proof rock the most quietly influential punk sound of the past decade.

Dog Disco, like 1993's cult-making classic Mush, is full of native Leatherface inventions. Stubbs' weary "pub-etry" sometimes seems as fragrant with magic mushrooms as it is with Guinness, coining "suilcider," using "plastic surgery" as an adjective, and likening the daily grind to circling toy trains. Meanwhile, Stubbs' and Leighton Evans' guitars tangle like math rock while still charging like a woolly mammoth from the first notes of the opening "Hoodlum."

What's new on Dog Disco is that perennial pooper, maturity. But in the case of Leatherface, it's actually fertilizer. After seven albums, a new guarded optimism makes possible lines like "For years I tried to see the world as a child, now I see a child as the world"; it girds Dog Disco in the same way that a grim sense of purpose shot through Mush. Also, there's little swerving across the muscle/melody divide -- nearly all of the 12 tracks inject sweetness and fierceness with a single needle, giving the album a gratifying consistency.

Flip through MaximumRocknRoll or any other punk rag and you'll find plenty of bands that can't be described without a reference to Leatherface, but most will never deserve, much less transcend, the comparison. Dog Disco, Leatherface's second magnum opus, ensures that.

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Andrew Marcus

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