A long time coming, DJ Kim Olin allegedly first hatched an idea for a rock ‘n’ roll band back in the 80s, but it wouldn’t be until 2022 that Leather Catsuit became a reality. At just five tracks, the band’s debut is too short, but since each of the tracks explores a different avenue, it plays like a complete showcase – enough to win the affections of potential fans without trying too hard.
Listeners looking for something instantly familiar should get a kick out of the opening track (and digital single) ‘Piece of The Pie’. It’s not quite as melodic as some of the band’s other songs, but it makes up for that with a lot of spirit. By way of an introduction, Olin and her band throw themselves head first into a riff driven rocker where the post-glam stomp of early Joan Jett and The Blackhearts collides with the grubby bar room sound of the should-be-legendary Watts. Sure, it’s a little heavy handed and certainly simplistic, but in terms of capturing an instantly familiar sound, it does a great job. Also presenting ex-Company of Wolves man Steve Conte’s hard guitar sound in tandem with Olin’s very natural voice, it gets a little extra muscle, providing a decent showcase for both musicians. There are a few moments where the sing-speak approach taken by Olin doesn’t reach its full potential, but a few plays uncovers a retro rocker that’s more than well meaning. As knockabout tunes go, it will certainly will have some appeal for lovers of a CBGB’s-centric sound.
From herein, the EP gets better and better, with Leather Catsuit exploring over avenues of rock with a natural flair. The EP’s best track overall, ‘Can’t Get You Off My Mind’ introduces a truckload more melody via a ringing guitar riff that draws a massive influence from the 60s British Invasion, applies a huge drum beat and various handclaps for good measure, and recycles a hugely familiar melody for a sizeable vocal. In many ways, its the instant familiarity – and early Stiff Records/Nick Lowe feel – that gives it the real appeal, but that shouldn’t detract from the musicians’ abilities. The very 60s tones are a better match for Olin, who’s able to curl her voice around some pleasingly long notes, whilst Conte adds a lot of crisp textures throughout. It isn’t too challenging for the rhythm section, but as anyone who knows anything about rhythm will attest, it’s about knowing what’s right for the job in hand, and the two Johns (Pisano on bass; Weber on drums) make a great team, able to give the track a more than solid backbone.
Slowing down further still, ‘Broken’ takes a bluesy rock backdrop, then adds a world of slide guitar and pumped bass. Over the slow groove, Olin’s most sultry voice doesn’t have too much flashiness, but the way she takes a deeper tone and pulls the longer notes across the verses results in one of her best vocals this time out. The band, meanwhile, sound wholly immersed in something that could’ve been a Black Crowes mellow jam circa 1992, and by the time Steve rises with a short but sharp lead break, this sounds like a retro classic that’s impossible to date. Adding a little heartbreak to the mix, ‘A Woman Alone’ takes the Leather Catsuit sound into more of a 50s sphere, thanks to a guitar twang akin to a Chris Isaak classic, and peppers the music further with some great electric piano sounds. The end result is a little more country rock/smooth sounding than the bulk of Leather Catsuit’s work, but never less impressive. By the time Olin cries across the second chorus, it’ll sound like something you’ve always known.
Last up, ‘You’re Killing Me’ opens with heavy acoustic strums before branching out into a moody rocker where wailing lead guitars take in even bigger swathes of bluesy hard rock. Against this solid musical backdrop – one of the EP’s finest, especially once Steve launches into a brief yet fiery solo – Olin reaches maximum cry. In some ways, it’s the EP’s most balanced track, taking in most of the band’s styles all at once, but the slow burning music means it takes longer to stick in the listener’s consciousness. Capturing Leather Catsuit’s tendencies for recycling the past with the minimum of fuss, it’s the ideal way to end, but if you’ve enjoyed the musical ride so far, it feels as if this release has come up a little too short…
With each of those musical moods taking on a retro feel, Leather Catsuit is an instant and natural fit for the Rum Bar Records label, making Olin label mates with members of The Neigborhoods, Dogmatics and CBGB’s face Genya Ravan. It’s fair to say that Leather Catsuit can be a little under-polished, but they rarely sound less than a hundred percent committed, and that creates a huge ball of retro fun. Those who’ve taken in huge chunks of the Rum Bar catalogue and found a love for Beebe Gallini, Genya Ravan and the works of Jen D’Angora will certainly find something of appeal here; others might have to work a little harder for the musical rewards, but they’ll come in time.