Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

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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