The Leg are headlining tonight’s Pale Imitation Festival gig at Henry’s, so I thought I might as well tell you about how they slowly but surely became one of my favourite bands, because it wasn’t something that happened overnight.
As I first started to get into local music Bart from eagleowl and Neil from Meursault always used to insist that it was The Leg who were the best band in Edinburgh, not any of the newer ones I was so excited about at the time.
I genuinely didn’t get it at first. It basically just seemed like deliberately obscure mentalism to me, honestly. I did try though, given the people who kept insisting that they were great, and I am not sure what changed, but as they prepared to release An Eagle to Saturn a few years ago I remember hearing Twitching Stick and absolutely loving it.
I don’t know what the difference was, either in me or in the band, but it’s not exactly like they had suddenly become more digestible. Twitching Stick is great, but it might not be the first thing you’d play to a Leg newbie as the easiest song for them to get into, but for whatever reason I suddenly heard something in the music that I absolutely loved.
From that point on, I was sold. I don’t know what changed in my head but I suddenly saw that thing that Neil and Bart had been going on about. We released An Eagle to Saturn on Song, by Toad Records and subsequently released not only their next one as well – 2013’s Oozing a Crepuscular Light – but also their previous one, which we included in the label’s fifth anniversary box set in January this year.
I remember this happening with Tom Waits, too. I never liked his more avant-garde stuff when I first heard it, and I always thought Bone Machine was actually just a bad album. It took ten years, starting with the accessible early troubadour years, moving through Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs a few years later onto the more theatricl stuff like The Black Rider a couple of years after that, only to eventually get to the stage where I finally realised that Bone Machine is, in fact, as brilliant as everything that went before it if not better.
The same sort of happened with The Leg. After the penny finally dropped we released not only An Eagle to Saturn, but also Oozing a Crepuscular Light last year, which is bordering on being an album of show-tunes. Deranged, hooting, terrifying show-tunes maybe, but by The Leg’s standards it is absolutely full of pop music. Lionlicker, for example, might be a bit lyrically odd, but the music itself certainly isn’t scary.
And funnily enough, once we’d arrived at a position where the band were releasing music which was as accessible as anything they’ve ever done, I went back to What Happened to the Shrunken Tina Turner, an album they released before we started working with them. It’s a ferocious, snarling beast of an album and I think the first recorded work of theirs I ever listened to. At the time I pretty much just turned it off immediately, and now it’s one of the go-to albums when people ask me about The Leg. In fact, when people about me ask about the whole label.
It’s got the aggression which a lot of metal seems to think it has, except because metal follows such a template it ends up just sounding a bit tame and formulaic to me. This album oozes menace and unhinged, terrifying intensity. It’s phenomenal. I just don’t understand how I didn’t get it the first time.
A bit like metal bands, though, deliberately ‘strange’ bands can end up sounding really tame and uninteresting to me, because oddness and confusion is a goal. The Leg just make music this way naturally. There’s nothing forced or deliberate about it, this is just the way it seems to spill out of them. Alright, they’re all phenomenal musicians so it’s not just random smashing, but there’s no sense of archness or artifice, they just make pop music and this is what it sounds like.
Where the band are going next I couldn’t tell you. There are a couple of sketches and demos up on their Soundcloud page which might offer a clue, but with guys like this I tend not to look too closely. Why worry. They will tell me when they are ready with their next thing, and if they want us to release it they will say so and I will be fucking delighted to do so. But with this band I really think the best way is just to sit back and wait and see where they decide to go, and worry about what it is afterwards.