Picked this up the other day at Jive Time Records. Any record that screams “Kill Ugly Pop!” across the top and features a photo of Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre requires at least a cursory listen on the shop turntable, and it showed enough promise to warrant buying.
I couldn’t find much info on the band online, other than that they appear to have been from the UK and the singer went by the nom de guerre Reverend U’Tang. The first time I put this on (about an hour ago… I’m on my second listen through as this required another round), the guitar on the opening track (“Let’s Get Real Gone”) sounded familiar… and after racking my insufficiently caffeinated mind for a moment I recognized it as similar to the guitar part on Nirvana’s “About a Girl”. Leatherface Gets Religion came out in 1986, so I’m not trying to imply any lifting… not on the part of either band. I think it likely speaks to shared influences. Cobain was said to have written “About a Girl” during an all-day Beatles-listening marathon, and given the surf-grunge-rockabilly sound of Kill Ugly Pop!, it’s safe to say the Reverend and Cobain likely had some of the same influences.
Discogs describes Kill Ugly Pop! as “psychobilly”, and that’s probably as apt a genre as any. There’s definitely a rockabilly base to their sound, with a grungy tuned down sound and a truly punk attitude. Nothing fancy here. Just straight ahead in-your-face rock ‘n roll. U’Tang’s vocals and pacing on some tracks remind me a lot of Mark Arm from his early Mudhoney days (which is a ringing endorsement in my book), but at other times it’s more of a live Jim Morrison feel. The do sneak in the odd audio clip here and there at the beginning or ends of some of the songs – glass breaking, a preacher doing his thing, and stuff like that. A lot of people hate that kind of thing, but I like it when it’s done well, and Kill Ugly Pop! don’t overdo it.
“Let’s Get Real Done” is a solid opener, and my favorite track is the one that closes out side A, “Fund A Mental,” which is where U’Tang’s vocals are at their grungiest. Side B brings out a lot more of the surf sound in the guitar, which is a good fit as a part of the band’s overall style. Letherface Gets Religion is mostly a band compilation – seven of the ten tracks appear on other Kill Ugly Pop! albums (their entire catalog consists of an LP and two 12″ singles), while the others appear to be unique to this release.
Leatherface Gets Religion won’t appeal to everyone, but if you like you punk with a surf/rockabilly vibe to it, it should be right in your wheelhouse.