Band: The Leather Nun.
Personnel: Jonas Almqvist, vocals; Bengt Aronsson, Nils Wohlrabe, guitars; Gert Claesson, drums; Frederick Adlers, keyboards; Ulf Widlund, bass.
History: This Swedish band is a far cry from the lightweight pop of countrymen like ABBA and a-ha. In fact, the Leather Nun's first record, the 1979 EP "Slow Death," resulted from singer Almqvist's friendship with British underground music/art terrorists Throbbing Gristle, and was issued on TG's Industrial Records label. The group sustained its cult status in Britain through a series of singles and EPs: 1983's "Prime Mover" (a 12-inch single that was released in the United States on Subterranean Records), an '84 reissue of "Slow Death" as an extended 12-inch (with a 15-minute live version of the title song, assisted by Throbbing Gristle's Genesis P. Orridge and cohort Monte Cazazza), the "506" EP and the live album, "Alive" in 1985, the '86 singles "Desolation Avenue" and "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme (A Man After Midnight)" (the latter, a remake of an ABBA song, hit the Top 10 on the independent chart). The Leather Nun's first full studio album, "Lust Games," was released in October, 1986. One of the songs from that LP, "Jesus Came Driving Along," was later included in the sound track of Penelope Spheeris' film "Dudes," and also appears on the band's first American album "Force of Habit," a compilation of past recordings released by I.R.S. Records in October.
Sound: Despite the "underground" credentials, the Leather Nun is nowhere near the shock and dissonance level of such American gothics as Swans and Sonic Youth. The cross section on "Force of Habit" ranges from engaging expressions of isolation in the Velvet Underground/Iggy Pop tradition ("506," the rough-edged "Pink House") to pretentious silliness that stops just short of Spinal Tap parody ("Prime Mover"). With riffing guitars clawing away above cyclic drones, the misanthropic Swedes' sound also evokes David Bowie and Bowie disciples like Echo & the Bunnymen. The best single cut is "For the Love of Your Eyes," a Velvet-y cabaret ballad whose acoustic guitar tapestry is supplemented by the surprising and effective use of a banjo. And the best line is from the paranoia-themed "Pink House": "Rosy-cheeked virgins in Moral Majority T-shirts / Forces (sic) me to hear Barry Manilow till my brain hurts."
Shows: Thursday at the Coach House, Friday at San Diego State University, Saturday at Scream.