Regular readers may be surprised to find a review of a new CD with no ostensible connection to TSOM, but Sweden’s Leather Nun (or Lädernunnan if you prefer) and West Yorkshire’s finest always seemed to have been separated at birth. Both bands were formed at the turn of the 80s, both had a name referring to female religious orders, both had a charismatic and instantly identifiable vocalist (who couldn’t actually sing according to purists), and both claimed the same rock lineage. They also shared the same dislike of musical pigeonholing. Take this quote from Jonas Almqvist “We’re not punk rock and we’re not alternative … we’re just rock’n’roll”. Sound familiar ? Both bands did a tongue in cheek cover of Abba’s “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme”. Both released three imperfect but different albums in the late 80s/early 90s, and both had been silent on the recording front since then.
Until now, that is. This week Leather Nun released their first album in 24 years, “Whatever”, which contains all the elements fans of the band in the 80s would expect : an eclectic mixture of styles ranging from classic in-your-face rock to piano-based whimsy, all topped with the honeyed vocals of Almqvist. The release is the result of a five year plus project by the singer, and real aficianados will already be familiar with many of the songs which have previously appeared on his own (Jonas A) MySpace or that of his other recent project Godtherapy, who released a promo CD containing versions of many of these tracks back in 2010. More bizarrely, one song, For The Love of Your Eyes appeared on the two Nun releases of 1985, Lust Games and (the live) Alive.
As a result, “Whatever” is more Vision thing than FALAA, a real curate’s egg which brings together the diverse elements of the difficult chapter of Almqvist recovering his musical mojo and having enough confidence in the new material to resurrect the Nun name, to which this collection does full justice. Openers “All Those Crazy Dreams” and “Outside My Window”, along with first single “Just Like a Dream”, stomp along with the glam mix of four-to-a-bar Heartbreakers rock and U2 guitar sheen familiar to those who enjoyed the more upbeat moments of Bowie’s recent “The Next Day”, topped with Jonas’ heavily accented English. Earlier Nun releases always exuded a certain louche after midnight wrong-side-of-the-tracks vibe, and the sleazy, decadent swagger of “Mainstream” and “Red Hot Gwen” maintain that tradition, in a style which will remind older listeners of former TSOM support Flesh For Lulu (and younger ones of Marilyn Manson in his prime). There are a few bizarre moments (“Dancing In The Rain” and “Star”) but all is saved by Almqvist’s world-weary vocals on the closing trio of tracks, where his half spoken delivery recalls Lou Reed at his effortless best.
Whilst this CD, like many of its predecessors (mini-Lps, side projects etc) betrays its difficult genesis, it’s a more than welcome return, and is for me the first essential purchase of 2015. With a live return imminent, the good news is that Almqvist has already begun work on the next LP, which will hopefully enjoy a smoother trajectory and be with us before the end of the decade. And therefore well before anything emerges from TSOM ....