Adored by egghead critics and leathered punkers, the grizzled UK punk veterans in Leatherface offer another live album, Live in Melbourne: Viva La Arthouse (No Idea), that’s a sizzling tour de force of both newly-minted tunes and others that delve deep into their ample catalog. As always, the band’s tunes highlight singer Frankie Stubb’s gravelly-voiced, poetic lyricism and unabashed pop-on-the-sleeve tendencies. In fact, the group has tackled Cyndi Lauper, the Police, and Elton John without even a wink of insincerity in the past, but this album doesn’t revisit such fare.
Luckily, guitarist Dickie Hammond has re-joined the ranks, so Leatherface’s mature mid-1990s output (like the swaying charred innocence of “Summertime” and the blitzkrieg “Not a Day Goes By”) comes to the fore and holds hefty sway. Meanwhile, Stubb’s wit and wordplay fill in the spaces between the music’s dense and robust rumbles, invoking a free association-style rambling resembling Michael Stipe’s (R.E.M.) own non-linear prowess. Tunes like the newish “God Is Dead”, the second track out of the gate, finds Stubbs philosophically conjuring dogs, God, and 1970s socialist hero Victor Allende. It all makes sense, though, for he moves from personal to international affairs, examining both people’s daily habits and the ways ideologies shape undercurrents of history.