Heather Leather – Princess Leather

22 07 2009

Heather LeatherPrincess Leather
1988/2005 – Self Released (?)

Thanks to Aesop at Cosmic Hearse for facilitating my finding of this band/album. Heather Leather is an all-girl metal band active in the 80s (and now, amazingly – according to their myspace, they’re playing shows in their hometown) in San Antonio, Texas. Princess Leather was recorded in 1988 and released at long last in 2005.

The first thing you notice about Princess Leather is that they need to tune their guitars. I’m not trying to be a dick, but the opening bars of “Princess Leather,” the first song on Princess Leather the album sound like a honky-tonk piano because they have that weird, unintentional reverb thing that happens when something is out of tune. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter because the second thing you notice about the album is that Heather Leather really, really fucking love heavy metal. Yeah, the technical proficiency on this album isn’t all that high, but you’ve really got to admire any bunch of people who love music so much they go out there and make some of it themselves, even if they don’t play like Adrian Smith… and I don’t mean that as some kind of pity point. It’s hard to start a band and play shows and record albums, and it’s harder when you’re reaching for a style that requires playing that’s just a little beyond your grasp. It’s nice to hear something that isn’t ironic or clever in any way (and yeah, not a lot of 80s metal was very ironic or clever, but still), and when singer Sylvia Garza goes in for one of her almost-falsetto Bruce Dickinsonion wails, it kind of makes chills go up my spine.

Anyway, after a rocking (but kind of long, sorry) first track, Princess Leather steps it up a notch for “Angel Lover” and “Let’s Rock,” both moderately fast-paced, guitar-driven 80s-metal-sounding songs about typical 80s-metal themes (namely loving/fucking and rocking) and then cools it down and spices it up (simultaneously – I know!) for “Shy Boy,” which actually reminded me a tiny, tiny bit of Gloria Estefan, even though it doesn’t really sound like her at all. “Now You Return” sounds like a doo-wop 80s song (in a good way), and then the last three tracks kick it back up into metal territory. My favorite is the last song, “Undercover,” which uses the words “child molestor” about 800 times. I didn’t catch what they were talking about, but I’d be all for appointing Heather Leather in charge of meting out justice to pedophiles.

All in all, this record made me smile, which is something that not all that much music does to me anymore. Maybe it means I’m a bandwagon-jumping quasi-hipster asshole who’s just getting her kicks by surfing older and more knowledgeable people’s blogs, but that’s not my intent. It seems like most of the people who are putting out music today who really go all out are electronic musicians who are so acutely aware and calculating about what they’re doing that it doesn’t have any more meaning than a U2 concert. Lady GaGa (or whoever she is) has nothing on Heather Leather, and I wish them all the best in their continuing musical career.

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Parts & Labor – Mapmaker

27 07 2008

Parts & LaborMapmaker
2007 – Jagjaguwar/Brah

Okay, so, apologies to the 3 people who have found and read (or did read, until I stopped writing) this blog. I hit a writer’s block – ironic, since I’m not a writer and suck at it when I do it recreationally. Ah well; so it goes.

The album that finally inspired my ass back into writing was Parts & Labor’s Mapmaker. I worked the day shift at the record store on Friday, and my still-mostly-drunk coworker bought me this record after seeing that I’d been listening to Husker Du the night before, which was nice of him, since I’m broke until Wednesday. He told me to take it home and listen to it loud, which I didn’t do, since the only system I currently have is my laptop, which only has one working speaker. Instead, I put it on my ipod and listened to it on my long walk to work the next day.

Yow.

I kind of thought my coworker was talking shit when he said these guys took a page from Husker Du. I mean, they’re from Brooklyn. I figured they might have a good song or two, but I was in no way prepared for what this album sounds like. It does kind of sound like Husker Du, but it sounds like Husker Du and something else… it sounds like Husker Du smashed up with The Dismemberment Plan. Actually, at first, I thought the singer was Dismemberment Plan frontman, Travis Morrison, but it’s not. In fact, the four guys in Parts & Labor don’t really seem to be or have been in any other bands at all.

But what’s it like, really?

Mapmaker sounds like all the stuff that other people think is so great about Animal Collective (noisy, sort-of-long songs and lots of dynamics and soaring vocals and kind of a freewheeling, letting loose kind of feeling to the whole enterprise) but done, well, well, rather than in a profoundly irritating fake-animal way like A.C. That is to say, it’s driving Husker Du-esque drums (with lots of tight, interesting flourishes – the drumming on this album rules), soaring, distant and echo-y sounding vocals, lots of weird, electronic guitar and keyboard-ish noises that sound like drills and buzzsaws half the time, no bass on half the songs, and even the odd electronic beat or squawk thrown in. There’s lots of energy, and the songwriting is tight enough to keep all the disparate sounds from sounding like an annoying pile of trendy noise. There are even a few dance-y kind of hooky tunes, but not enough to make this a dance band in any sense of the word. What I mean to get at is that this is a band that is better than the sum of its parts and that looks worse on paper.

Finally, these guys sound like they mean it, and I suppose that’s probably what I like most about this album. Yes, there are lots of trendy, hip, elements in their songs, but that doesn’t seem to really matter in the face of the four guys in the band just, for lack of a better term, givin’er. It’s totally shitty of me to say, but Parts & Labor sound like they love music and love playing, and hearing this album made me realize how relatively rare that is in music coming out today.

Thanks for getting me out of my slump, guys.

Also Listened (some picks from the last 45 days):
Beck – Modern Guilt
Alejandro Escovedo – Real Animal
Quest For Fire – S/T
Husker Du – Flip Your Wig
Carcass – Heartwork
Lair of the Minotaur – The Ultimate Destroyer
Fugazi – The Argument
Elliott Brood – Mountain Meadows
She Wolves – S/T
Melvins – Nude With Boots
Antelope – Reflector