I never got into the Sainte Catherines, they were always on my radar but they never quite sunk my battleship. In recent years though, I have become a big ‘ol obnoxious fan of gruff-palm-muted-punk heroes Leatherface. They are one of those rare mergings of interesting music, hooks, and lyricism that turns you to a zealot. Medictation reached my ears by virtue of being the last project of the late Leatherface guitarist Dickie Hammond, who, joined with members of the Sainte Catherines form the lineup for this one-off supergroup.
Warm Places serves as a wonderful, but perhaps unintended tribute to Hammond, because, by virtue of its overall similarities to the Sainte Catherines sound, his guitar playing is the sole, and soul, takeaway. Its the contrast that makes this a new entity. Otherwise, it is a pretty standard tread through modern punk territory, without songwriting that is distinguished enough to make it rise above what the rest of the genre has to offer.
The album begins with “Memories of Youth,” which is actually one of the best songs on Warm Places. It has a cool discordant riff that opens it up before alternating into chugs and arpeggios. The music itself is one of the strongest elements of the album, with plenty of dynamic changes. It very rarely feels like a trek through samey verses and choruses. “Fishing” is another cool song, with another cool riff coupled with jittery energy.
If it was all sonics, Warm Places could be a lifetime favorite. Of anything I’ve heard recently, the sound is immediately interesting and makes a receptive listener out of even the most passive music fan. Fantastic arrangements and great playing throughout aren’t enough in the face of lifeless melodies. Perhaps necessarily, the fretwork is the only element of this album that really pops.
Warm Places is one of those albums that is going to be purely for fans, for others it’ll be curio, or a prominent goodbye to a great punk musician. Those who love it will love the Sainte Catherines as much as Leatherface, and effortlessly put in the time for the hooks to come alive and the words to assume meaning. For others, it’ll be a good album that didn’t have the nerve to be great.