(7 out of 10)
True believers don’t come much truer than British punks Leatherface. Despite a half-decade break during the last part of the ‘90s, the band has held fast to their belief that Hüsker Dü pretty much figured out the best way to make emotionally affective punk rock, and that it was Leatherface’s job to keep refining that formula. That’s not to say they’re formulaic, it’s just to say that the burly, chiming guitars, anthemic choruses and gut-wrenching lyrics just keep getting more.
The Stormy Petrel is the group’s eighth studio album since 1989, and finds them in prime form, with Frankie Stubbs’ gravelly voice adding emotional resonance and been-there weariness to songs that manage to be both raw and well-crafted. To the young punks who may be unfamiliar with the band’s legacy, Leatherface – especially Stubbs’ voice – may be reminiscent of Jawbreaker and Hot Water Music, but as tall as those bands’ legends are, Leatherface has toiled in relative obscurity. Maybe it’s because their sound is rougher and, frankly, more manly than either of those bands. Maybe it’s because they’ve got bad luck. Or maybe, they just don’t give a shit.
In fact, Leatherface recently played in my town, at a great beer bar that holds about 100 people. I was amazed that a band I considered so legendary was playing in such a small space and to so few people. I was even more amazed that they performed with an infectious (and drunkenly fun) energy that felt like they were playing to an audience ten times as large. And that’s how it’s always felt with these guys; they’re the band that is deeply loved by those who love them, and almost completely unknown to those who have yet to hear them. With The Stormy Petrel, a disc that crams the band’s decades of experience into a dozen, life-affirming punk anthems filled with heartache, hope, and humor, perhaps more people will get the chance to become members of the former category.
Standout Tracks: “Diego Garcia,” “God Is Dead”