Considering the mediocrities that constantly get signed out of the Hollywood club scene, it’s amazing that a band like the Leonards (who originally hail from Detroit) can deliver a red-hot seven-cut indie album and still be ignored by the majors. The Leonards contains nothing but searing, sneering garage rock’n’roll — ’60s in construction, ’80s in energy. The band has no pose to sell, just good tunes executed with verve and skill. Guess that explains it.
The 1988 debut is a bit tamer than Blister, recorded five years and a couple of personnel changes later, with namesake guitarist Lenny Grasso handling lead vocals in place of the departed John Pozza. His singing is rough, but there’s a convincing bite and a desperation that, if occasionally annoying, can also be effective — as on “Sheep,” a song about sticking to your guns in the face of what’s hot at the moment. That song cuts right to what the Leonards seem to have been about. Not everything always gels, but every song has some good moments, and the guitar interplay between Grasso and Mark Slocum is often incendiary.
Calling himself Sloke, the ex-Leonard resurfaced in the Customers, notable only for being the first group to release an album on Neil Young’s Vapor Records. The guitarist formed the quartet — a none-too-clever amalgam of the Replacements and Crazy Horse — with Minnesota expatriate Ryan Sexton (vocals/guitar) and an Atlanta-bred rhythm section.