Frank Iero of My Chemical Romance formed Leathermouth in part because of his frustration with the fact that there was “too much bad hair and white belts” and not enough “hate” in punk rock. So — seemingly unaware of the buckets of irony spilled by that statement — Iero’s response to this state of affairs wasn’t to quit his platinum-selling, stadium-filling and bad-hair-saddled day job, but instead to team up with hometown friend Rob Hughes to make a raw, aggressive and in-your-face hardcore record. At least that was probably the intention; the actual result of the Leathermouth sessions is a chaotic and slightly unhinged record that seems to be constantly on the verge of falling apart. Iero’s incessant hardcore screaming is thoroughly obnoxious (his voice isn’t nearly substantial enough for the task), but the clanging, arrhythmic bashing he and Hughes spit out is light years away from the polished melodrama of his main band. There are only a very few moments (a bridge in “I Am Going to Kill the President,” the ’80s-style breakdown in “Bodysnatchers 4 Ever”) where the songs actually sound cohesive and forceful enough to deliver on Iero’s promise of bomb-throwing revolution. Mostly though, tracks like “5th Period Massacre,” “Sunsets Are For Muggings” and “Leviathan” feature fragments of riffs and rhythms that, were they wound more tightly, could be some genuinely effective hardcore or, if they were completely loosened, could be a bracing dose of spazzy noise-punk. As it is, Leathermouth falls somewhere in the middle, and XO is a playful and loose bit of spit-flecked anger that may appeal to those MCR fans craving something a little rawer. Dedicated hardcore fans, however, will likely not be impressed.
First appeared Jan. 26, 2009 at Shockhound.com.