The Leather Nun Slow Death 12" (Criminal Damage, 1984)
My first encounter with The Leather Nun (or Lädernunnan as they are known in their homeland) came when I bought the Primemover/FFA 7". I was so unimpressed that I ignored their output for years and never bothered to find out what came before that record. Then one day, a friend of mine pulled out the Slow Death reissue. "No! Not The Leather Nun!" I pleaded. But he assured me all was fine: I needed to hear this. He dropped the needle and he was right. I searched for the record. The two 7"s that make up the record were impossible to find and by the time I stumbled upon any Leather Nun records, I had forgotten what the damn record was my friend played me!
Then a couple years ago, another friend put a couple Leather Nun songs on a CDr he made me. "No! Not The Leather Nun!" I cried once more. "This is the good stuff," he promised. And it was. The search was on once again, but this time I had a title: Slow Death. Original released in 1979 on Industrial Records, the Slow Death 7" debuted the Swedish band, The Leather Nun. They say they were the first band since Abba to break out of Sweden. Maybe so. Throw this pup on your turntable and you will think that if they weren't the second Swedish rock and roll band to climb out of the north, they were the best...at least for one record.
Slow Death starts out with the song No Rules, a distorted, primal, Stoogoid/Raw Power-style riff that immediately plunges into a sub-Motorhead punked up swamp. Fuzzed vocals emerge, English painted with some evil, thuggish accent. Behind the fuzz and dumb riffage (and that is smart dumb, not dumb dumb) are some odd vocal loops or something I can't quite figure out. But it works.
Second song is the title cut, a slow, sparse crawl about someone dying slowly from burns that cover 90% of their body - fun stuff that owes a lot to Suicide's Frankie Teardrop as well as Pere Ubu's Heart of Darkness. Not quite as good as either of those two doom classics, Slow Death is still a pretty sweet song.
Ensam I Natt originally appeared as just a sliver of time on the Slow Death 7". Here, on the reissue, you get the whole show. A busy bass line starts it up and then once again we plunge into fuzz filled dumbness. Ensam is easily one of the 100 best punk songs ever made. It is primitive, it is brutal, and it is immediate. Perfect.
Death Threats closes the side. It is a combination of bass/drum loop, a band saw loop, and a drill, then a telephone ring. The vocals come in, sounding as if they were recorded in a room lined with cotton balls. The guitar arrives late, perhaps because it is being played under water. And the solo is taken up by a very loud typewriter. A drill/saw crescendo ends the song. The first time I heard to Death Threats, I was only half listening so I didn't pick up on the instrumentation until the end of the song. Upon second listening, I heard the saw, drill, etc. What I am getting at is that, hardware aside, there is a song here and it is a good one.
Side two was originally released in 1980 and is a long live version of Slow Death, featuring Genesis P-Oridge on violin and Monte Cazazza on synthesizer. Like the studio version, it creeps in. It is slow and sparse. The vocals are more distant, but that is fine. The synth and violin combine and sound, at times, like a wah-wah guitar. About the two minute mark the guitar comes in with a slashing ka-kunnnnnnnng. It takes up the melody but doesn't overpower. Past three minutes, I start looking at my watch. At five minutes, I fall back into the song, the length actually making this version better. The guitar starts what turns out to be a long, fragmented wah wah solo. Guitarist Bengt Aronsson is no Ron Ashton. And he couldn't tune Grady Runyon's gee-tar either. My man Bengt comes from the Scott Soriano School of Wah Wah Soling. The Soriano School involves mating simple phrases with complete nonsense. It involves dumb fingers - not smart dumb, this time it is dumb dumb. However, as moronic as Bengt's sub-soling is, the man nails it. A hot-shit solo would ruin the song, it would bring it crashing down in pretension. This is pretty much all of what is needed and it aces the song.
I am not a Leather Nun fan. They released far too much crap to get my endorsement. That said, I do very much recommend this 12". It is as pure and primal as loud art punk gets and well worth a hundred listens.
(Originally ran as Crud Crud 4.9.2005 without the music.)
And speaking of The Leather Nun, the day I bought their 7 inch, I also bought a single from a Bay Area band called Noh Mercy, with a great song called "Caucasian Guilt" on it and I cannot find any mention of it anywhere. Scott, do you know of it?