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Leatherface | Horsebox | review | punk | Lollipop
by Tim Den
As with most "reunion" albums, England's legendary Leatherface's first full-length after their comeback from an early death (in the mid-'90s) has been eagerly and sometimes skeptically awaited. Just look at The Who for the worst case scenario. And given that Horsebox is the first Leatherface effort without long-time guitarist/backup vocalist/co-songwriter Richie Hammond's fingerprints, diehard fans were really starting to worry. I'll alleviate the unnecessary stress by saying the 'Face is back.
Fear no more, fellow Leathergeeks, for the mighty foursome (mainman/ guitarist/vocalist/chief songwriter Frankie Stubbs, original member/drummer/backup vocalist Andrew Laing, new bassist since the reformation David Burdon, and new guitarist [once bassist of Jesse, a post-Leatherface project of Stubbs'] Leighton Evans) has not only honored their reinstatement of the sacred moniker by writing some of the best tunes they've ever produced, but also doing it collectively. About half the tracks on Horsebox have other band members contributing aside from Stubbs - that fact alone saying a lot for the quality of the tunes. "Watching You Sleep," "Closing Time," "Kill DJ's," "Box Jellyfish," and especially the opener, "Sour Grapes" (perhaps my favorite Leatherface song ever), see the band turning the speedometer way down, letting the cruise control take over at medium drive, and concentrating on breaking your heart with tobacco-and-whiskey tales. And while others might claim that Mush and Minx are the group's best releases, there's no denying that Horsebox will probably be remembered as the band's most mature and seasoned output. They obviously realized that they'd built their legacy from the magical melody/guitar interplays, and in turn focused on those aspects by getting rid of the only thing that often got in the way: speed. Now the magic can be completely heard, and I for one am in awe of it.
Despite my petty annoyance at its length (a whopper at 48 minutes [long for a punk rock record] and 14 songs; but then again, they've always crammed a shitload of tunes on every release (save The Last) and the decent but unnecessary cover of "True Colours" (must get rid of Cyndi Lauper image in brain!), Horsebox has taken over Mush in the cockles of my heart. Quite an achievement.
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