Sunday, March 28, 2010


© Ricardo Saporta

The Stormy Petrel
Big Ugly Fish Records
No Idea Records

"Don't you ever say goodbye, don't you ever! Don't you ever say goodbye." The online trailer looks like it's advertising the second coming. And you know what, it might as well be. Leatherface, straight out of Sunderland, North-East England, are one of the inventors of raspy-throated melodic punk rock. The kind made even more famous by bands like Hot Water Music, The Lawrence Arms, Dillinger Four and The Sainte Catherines. And now they're back (again).

With Leatherface, you either don't get it or you're a complete disciple. There's no room for in-betweens. And to the disciples, Frankie Stubbs' broken, scratchy voice sounds better and more jaded than ever. "God is dead, buried in my shed... God is dead, he's definitely dead. I wouldn't lie to you..." sings Stubbs, like a wounded ghost from the past: as certain as concrete. It's a strong place to start. Stubbs sounds so matter of fact and convincing you wouldn't doubt him for a second.

"My World's End" kicks off with venom. The chorus steps it up a notch. And the ending's the kind of lament goosebumps were invented for. For now, "Diego Garcia" is my new favourite Leatherface song. It's an up-tempo, melodic punk rock anthem with a killer riff: dark and sinister, yet catchy and apocalyptically melodic.

On "Monkfish," Stubbs sounds like his vocal chords have been cut, his voice quivering like a ram to the slaughter. Backed up by more neat riffing and the album's tight, muscular production, it's another standout. "If my hand's broken, it's broken in two. If my mind's open, it's not open to you," sings Stubbs on grunge ballad "Broken," like a grizzly bear with a thorn in his foot. You can almost feel his breath on your face - and the smell's intoxicating.

According to the legend, Joseph Hodgson was The Stormy Petrel. A nickname he earned standing on the coast of Sunderland, staring out to sea for ships in distress and (often) saving them. But instead of a rich hero, Hodgson died a poor man, pawning his medals to survive. Like Leatherface, another brave Sunderland hero often forgotten by history. So it's
a perfectly-suited album title then, for one of the world's most under-appreciated punk rock bands.

Lyrically, Leatherface don't waste a word. Every reference and old-school British metaphor, from "Diego Garcia" and "Monkfish," to "Belly Dancing Stoat" and The Stormy Petrel, showing off just how much thought and attention's gone into this album. It's a knockout: meaningful, intense and deceptively modern-sounding. Leatherface sound every bit the wise old working class punk poets they're meant to be, and I can't get enough of it.

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