While this album by Medictation is the joyful coming together of members of Nineties UK punk heroes Leatherface and Canadians The Sainte Catherine, it sadly comes after Leatherface guitar legend Dickie Hammond passed away late last year, never getting to see Warm Places hit the shelves.
But while there is undoubted sadness in the story, Warm Places is invigorating. For although the album’s opening guitar riff spiders up in a way only Dickie could tap out, once the chug kicks in it’s dishevelled, grunge-tinged punk that’s not afraid to roll around in that mix of melody and melancholy that always seems to prickle with energy. From said opener ‘Fishing’ (“Friendship’s like fishing for your love”) as it jumps into ‘Gods And Glory’, the album swings. The riffs are fluid and the rhythms propulsive as it dances along. In this respect this is more akin to a Leatherface album than the crunching bar-punk of The Sainte Catherine.
The dynamism stems from Hugo Mudie’s vocal performance as well, both gravelled yet able to glide. There are few vocalists who can be gruff without being grating, Frankie Stubbs (Leatherface) being one and those, and of course there’s those they influenced (Chuck Ragan of Hot Water Music and Brian Fallon of the Gaslight Anthem are obvious and consenting co-conspirators). But Mudie brings more to ‘Warm Places’ and there are even surprisingly trite moments, as per the chorus in ‘The Last Rainfall’ that feels more skip-or-die than skate-or-die. With an understated bass riff and picked guitar lines in the verses this sits somewhere closer to Teenage Fanclub and The Weakerthans, something fans of the bands involved probably wouldn’t have counted on. When the harmonies build before breaking into the chorus, it’s almost AOR.
This isn’t a perfect album. Far from it. It has a penchant for leaning a bit too heavily toward the anthemic, for example ‘Saptor Raptor’ blast-beats magnificently through the verses but the chorus-by-numbers of “On and on and on and….” is a low-end Brit-pop flirtation too far. But when it’s followed by the burrow of minor chords that is ‘Secret Of The Marlins’, the balance of aggression and sensitivity is restored and the relentless rhythmic pummelling is welcomed back with open arms .
Cutting to the chase, Warm Places doesn’t quite capture the ferocity of Leatherface at their best, but this is a punk album that documents a passionate and creative transatlantic collaboration. In blending ennui and wry humour with guitars that scream in distorted joy there’s a unique and engaging personality to this record that’s infectious. Whether the bands decides to play this live or not given the circumstances is their prerogative but if they do, many will be there to riff with them.
7Jon Falcone's Score