Reviews Leatherface Viva La Arthouse: Live In Melbourne


Viva La Arthouse: Live In Melbourne

On the Stormy Petrel World Tour in 2010 bassist Graeme Philliskirk made an arrangement with The Arthouse in Melbourne, Australia to record Leatherface’s set, unbeknownst to the rest of the band. This recording led to Viva La Arthouse, a record that captures Leatherface live and without the self-awareness you’ll often hear on such releases. In addition, it serves to document a show at a legendary club that has since closed its doors. The result is a 19 song collection of Leatherface that not only captures a moment on record, but can serve as a powerful introduction for those who haven’t caught the band live.

Songs range across their career—while I’m sure the purists will complain that something is missing, there are songs off their last studio record, 2010’s The Stormy Petrel, as well as songs dating back a decade. Songs off Mush and The Stormy Petrel make up about half of the set. The cohesion in Frankie Stubbs’ songwriting holds it together and the lack of stage banter gives an added power to the music, much like in the Ramones’ classic Loco Live. The record captures their energy better than most of their studio records, with Stubb’s voice cracking with emotion even moreso than on record, with a touch more gruffness, and the singalongs add a deeper spirit that remind of Leatherface shows I’ve attended. As far as on-stage flubs, there’s some feedback in “Not Superstitious,” but that’s really all besides some crowd noise between songs and a few breathers for the band. The sound quality is consistent throughout and, while crowd cheers can be heard, they’re mixed subtly enough to complement the energy without distracting from the rawk.

The set, after 18 familiar songs, ends on a cover of Johnny Cash’s [cover of Nine Inch Nails’] “Hurt.” While I’m not sure how serious they are about the song, the quivering, imitative vocals come across as silly but the song’s sincerity and remorse aren’t lost, giving it a curious, fun ending to a show, and the forgotten verse and slipshod nature make it feel spontaneous. It’s a touchingly personal way to end a set, stripping the band to a minimal song where they can relax in front of the audience, and goof around while still delivering good stage presence.

This is actually the band’s second live release, following 1995’s Live in Oslo, though I am unfamiliar for comparisons. The band has released three full lengths since, as well as rotated a number of members. Overall, it’s one of the better live records I’ve heard in some time and it can serve the double purpose of bringing back memories to the superfans and completists while also offering a powerful introduction to a long-running, often overlooked band. The only thing missing on this disc is a way to reproduce Stubbs’ dance moves.

7.5 / 10Loren
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