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Leatherface | Boat in the Smoke | review | dvd | Lollipop


Boat in the Smoke (Punkervision)
by Tim Den

Anyone who's ever seen Leatherface live can attest to the power of the band's music. The experience is emotional, visceral, cathartic, and energetic all at once, an incredible feat since the band members themselves don't really move much on stage. For many units, the "live" setting doesn't translate into something bigger and better than the recorded works unless the band are flipping out and going bonkers onstage. For Leatherface, however, the music is all you need. Not antics, poses, or witty banter (in fact, guitarist/vocalist Frankie Stubbs says a total of three words to the crowd during the entire 57-minute set), just their unique brand of smoky, seasoned, world-weary, tough-yet-tender punk rock. Like Hot Water Music (who are obviously greatly influenced by Leatherface) and The Weakerthans, it's the folkish chord patterns and the feeling they evoke when paired with fast tempos/distortion that create all the impact. You can drink, lament, fight, celebrate, and everything in between to Leatherface. A real punk rock band indeed.

Recorded at a Camden Underground show last year, Boat in the Smoke concentrates mainly on the band's latter releases, namely Dog Disco, Horsebox, The Last, and their split with Hot Water Music. While I was thrilled to see/hear such faves as "Diddly Squat," "Sour Grapes," and "Gangparty," older fans might scoff at the lack of Mush material. But if you overlook the setlist choices, you'll find great sound quality, good camera work, and a kick-ass performance within Boat in the Smoke. The band start off kinda cold - even missing notes here and there - but soon build up steam and work the crowd into a frenzy. By the midway point of "Not a Day Goes By," people are yelling and throwing fists and swigging drinks: Punk rock good times. Funny too, since the crowd's behavior isn't reflected in the band's demeanor at all. Stubbs and co. simply continue doing their funny little dances and look civil in comparison to the crowd.

As the band enter the home stretch, "Heart Is Home" brings the audience to a fever pitch and "Andy" knocks it out of the park. The latter, of course, is especially powerful because of its subject matter (written about a close friend and ex-bassist who committed suicide), as the crowd reacts accordingly and shows their respect by completely flipping out. Wrapping it up with three bring-down-the-house numbers (oldie "Dead Industrial Atmosphere," covers "You Are My Sunshine" and "Hops and Barley"), Leatherface exit the stage with the audience chanting and crowd-surfing and knocking over microphones and stage-diving and... whew! What a fucking show. You know you've whipped ass when the crowd is still singing after you've left the stage.

As if the Camden Underground show alone isn't enough, Boat in the Smoke offers an additional seven songs from a 2001 Sunderland show (Hot Water Music guitarist/vocalist Chris Wollard even joins in on second guitar for "Not Superstitious") and an in-depth interview with Stubbs. More sonic goodness is delivered and opinions on modern pop punk, resurrecting Leatherface, creativity, and touring are dispensed. Can you say thick with awesomeness? Real punk rock still lives. Pick up Boat in the Smoke and experience it.

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