LEATHERFACE: The Stormy Petrel: CD

This late in the game—their eighth full length—I’m far beyond the honeymoon stage with Leatherface. They’ll never be new to me again. I knew almost exactly what The Stormy Petrel would sound like before I played the first song: burlap and cold concrete, smoke bristling; songs that have shape but when you try to capture them, they wisp around your fingers and soak into the furniture. Simultaneously everywhere and nowhere. I knew I’d be seduced by Frankie Stubbs’s lyrics and Dickie Hammond’s string work. And although I’ve never been to Leatherface’s hometown of Sunderland, England, I’m intimate with aching towns of failing industry, of large ports of amazing complexity, of countries simultaneously capable of extreme compassion and viciousness. I can hear that world through Leatherface. With The Stormy Petrel, there are no huge surprises for longtime listeners, yet, at the same time, it’s a distinctly new experience. Leatherface writes novels of songs, not just records. Although longtime listeners may know all the characters, the scenery, and the plot, Leatherface has the knack of being true to their time and place without “Bad Religion-ing” themselves by making the same record again and again (topically or sound-gimmick wise). It’s far-ranging in topic (the opening line is “God is dead, in my shed,” terrorism, heart infarctions from ice cream, heart break, depression, murder fantasies, and a plea for the listener to never give up hope (or watch Home Alone.)) Paradoxically, The Stormy Petrel is also an excellent, accessible record for listeners new to the band. My advice? You have to come to Leatherface. Let the record spin over and over. Even if it doesn’t lock in, keep on spinning it, even six months down the line. It’s not uncommon that it’ll take some time. But when the dime drops… pure magic. Uncontested top ten of 2010 for me.

 –todd (Big Ugly Fish, biguglyfish.uk, Leatherface.biz)