Masters of Their Domain: Genuine Leather Excel in the Studio on Losers

by Nick Hanover

Genuine Leather Losers

While I was researching Genuine Leather for this review, I came across a blurb that said “It has never been production that makes a song great.” I thought that was a curious thing to say about a band like Genuine Leather, who have a mastery of the studio that few bands these days can match, particularly in a scene like Austin where lo-fi aesthetics are held up as some kind of badge of authenticity. It’s not that Genuine Leather are exactly Steely Dan (though there is a bit of The Dan in their structures and lyrical fixation), but if you’re going to make a point about the studio being unnecessary to great music, there’s a whole slew of great lo-fi punk bands in this town to single out rather than a group that has clearly paid attention to what took Spoon from a local band with a grudge against an A&R Rep to the band every indie act from 2003 to 2009 told producers they wanted to sound like.

It’s even more curious because Losers, Genuine Leather’s new album, is a love letter to the magic of the studio, specifically the innovative techniques of the ’70s album rock boom. I mean, the penultimate track is “Don’t Be Alarmed,” a six minute epic that wears its ELO crush on its sleeve. Even the lo-fi acoustic number that ends the album, the cleverly named “Chelsea, You Kill Me,” stands out because it makes a statement with its production: if the album had been a whole batch of dirgy, lo-fi acoustic numbers rather than lushly produced power pop, would “Chelsea” be so memorable? Almost certainly not. Point being, Genuine Leather don’t just know what they’re doing in the studio, they understand it’s as important a tool as anything else a band uses, regardless of whether it’s being used to make everything beautiful or to draw out the ugliness.



But don’t let that tangent convince you Genuine Leather aren’t capable of writing expert pop. The album opens with “The Viper,” a raucous bit of power pop with a wonderful harmony hook where the boys pull out their falsettos and declare “I love you” over and over. The chief vocal has a hefty dose of crunch to it, but like John Lennon on “Twist and Shout,” you get the sense there’s some real bloody larynx shredding going on there. The band swiftly shows off its softer side with “Head Wound,” which is imbued with dreamy harmonies and heavy reverb all making the hallucinatory promise of the title literal. The track that prompted studio diatribe, “The Enemy,” sits somewhere between Eels and Fountains of Wayne, with trippy effects on the percussion, a light funk to the rhythm and a bassline I swear is identical at one point to the hook of Goosebumps tv theme.

The stuttering rhythm of “The Enemy” makes a slight return on “Say the Same Thing Twice,” but there it’s in service of what would otherwise be a driving anthem. It’s one of the few moments on Losers where I think the band made the wrong studio decision, as the main vocal is run through the same megaphone filter as “The Viper,” but here it clashes with the sonics of the track. “The Viper” has a lot of audio white space to give that kind of heavy filter room to expand, but “Say the Same Thing Twice” is cluttered with other instruments in the same frequency and the vocals could stand to be cleaner, to function as a beauty to the rest of the production’s beast. The following track “The Garden” initially grates vocally, too, but it builds to a noisy, blown out climax that ties it together and helps enforce that decision.



Even with those minor, slightly questionable aesthetic choices, Losers is a truly accomplished album by an Austin group that isn’t afraid to embrace the studio, and Genuine Leather’s peers could stand to pay attention to how the band is utilizing the studio without being devoured by it. It’s refreshing to hear a band so confident behind the boards, and they’re worth keeping an eye on.


Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics.  You can also flip through his archives at  Comics Bulletinwhich he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culturewhere he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with Dylan Garsee on twitter: @Nick_Hanover