People on both sides of My Chemical Romance's fan base have to admit it's been interesting to watch guitarist Frank Iero build up to his long-in-the-works hardcore side project Leathermouth. From news stories in which Iero promised the band would "bum out" MCR fans to press releases that name-checked iconic noisemakers Black Flag and Ink And Dagger, Leathermouth found Iero shirking his platinum present for a dive into his punk past—or at least talking a good game about it. With XO, Iero proves he's no dilettante: With a yowl that brings to mind Converge's Jake Bannon, Iero powers through Leathermouth's gnarled, nasty tunes with creativity and heart to spare. The Black Flag/Ink And Dagger influences shine through in room-clearers like "Sunsets Are For Muggings," but XO's better songs (the angular, paint-peeling "5th Period Massacre"; the D-beat bloodbath "Catch Me If You Can") throttle such influences beyond easy recognition. It's too bad Iero's day job limits Leathermouth's tour schedule—in a year that's been one of hardcore's most progressively noisy in some time (see also: Blacklisted, Ceremony, Trash Talk), the band would be in fine company.
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