Hot Water Music / Leatherface

BYO Split Series, Vol. 1

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This split LP, recorded in three days in 1999, seems as miraculous as it is a godsend. Because they were one of those truly astonishing modern groups that spontaneously combusted in the midst of an attenuated creative peak, Leatherface's unexpected 1993 bust-up seemed particularly cruel. Thousands of scattered souls openly mourned when the news came down that the punk/post-punk powerhouse had vanished. Perhaps after listening to the sea of old live recordings and B-sides, Leatherface's members realized what they'd thrown away, buried what hatchets needed burying, and pulled a Lazarus. The sound of this new recording recalls the spark, the lift-off, and the balls-out clear smack of Mush and the Last. Though Frankie Norman Warsaw Stubbs' vocals are mixed just a little too low to totally match those older detonations -- you have to go down into the two guitars a little to find him, making the words harder to get -- it's still such a corker, it completely corrects the muddy mixes on Stubbs' Jesse and Pope albums. And though this record also finds the quartet retreating to a stylistic territory closer to Mush and Minx, backing away from the more adventurous turf of the Last, it's too intense and exciting to even remotely quibble with. That this unexpected recording is a reality is that rarest of things: a long-shot wish fulfilled. More recent American emo stars Hot Water Music surprisingly put up a good fight, trying to be in the same ballpark with Leatherface's ashen attack, but they lack a singer of Stubbs' caliber to be appearing on the same LP as him or a tightness in playing that takes one's breath away. Better to try them on their own records, because out of this context they would sound rather powerful.

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