photo by Ray Ostendorf

Leach's music hard to categorize, easy to like
by Chris Longoria
staff writer, The Round Table
Beloit College, October 1, 1999

A new breed of musicians are beginning to surface above the smokescreen of music's mass marketers.  Breaking the mold of traditional pop music is a conglomeration of hip-hop, techno, and countless other hidden genres.  This coagulation of more aesthetically complex musical creations was uncovered in artists like Beck, Rage Against the Machine and DJ Shadow.

Today, young musicians have utilized their own ingenuity along with modern musical conglomerates to form yet another hybrid within the hybrid.  Hence: Justin Leach.

Leach, a Beloit College sophomore, recalls writing lyrics at the age of five.  Lyrics alone, however, were unable to quench his thirst for musical expression.  Leach picked up the guitar and has continuously entranced his audiences by setting his lyrics to music.

"At first," Leach admits, "the thought of making music was unreal."  With that bothering his conscience he continued to play and to develop.  He threw aside his doubts and focused his attention on maturing his musical comprehension and fundamental techniques.

Being influenced by Leonard Cohen's "gritty smoothness," Bob Dylan's songwriting and David Bowie's originality, Leach's individual style is able to stop to the forefront.

His ability to sew together the threads of his influences with his own creativity helps put him in his own category.  It would be a challenge to nail Leach down to a known genre of music.  Being only 21 and blending genres to fit his musical ideas is an accomplishment in itself.  leach's creativity, skills, and influences become tangible on his first completed album, "Fuzzy Pornography."

The 14-song album is mainly made up of acoustic guitar songs.  Nonetheless, the skillfully harmonized gritty tempo changes fill the listener's ear with a feeling of completeness.  "Every guitarist is a rock star," Leach said.  he proves this throughout his entire LP.

While each song is remarkably decorated with the acoustic guitar, Leach's songwriting ability lunches into the audience, hypnotizing their emotions.

Leach claims that most songs are inspired by the time he spends in his head.  Songs such as "Rosie O'Malley," "Six a.m." and "Untitled," ring with an echo of abstract storytelling and reflection.

Leach's songwriting takes another turn with the song "Midnight Train to Hiroshima," "Pope Mohammed the 79th" and "Dracula is my Hero."  Leach offers the audience crisp imagery and conceptuality.  This song trio defines Leach's storytelling style and his ability to accommodate his lyrics to his music.

The climax of the album is the title track.  The song combines Leach's guitar skills, originality and harmony.  Leach sings of the infamous fuzzy pornography that is channeled through his television set while garnishing the music with smooth tempo changes.  Despite the subject the music renders the listener helpless in becoming nostalgic and content with life.

In his live performances, Leach injects a passion that is absent in some songs that are on "Fuzzy Pornography."

"I like to entertain, but expression in music is the most important thing," Leach said.  When performing live, his charismatic expression is amplified.  Leach is also successful in delivering a consistent charge of musical integrity throughout his performance.

When experiencing his live show all doubts of his success are dissolved.  However, even with much development accomplished, there is still much development to occur.

Improvements like more musical complexity with other instruments still have space to fit in each song.  Also, the door to more versatility in his rhyme scheme can be opened.

Look for Leach to complete the unreleased album "Something About Armageddon" [webmaster's note: later titled Album Two] on an upcoming all acoustic album and to team up with the alternative hip-hop duo Hybrid for an on-campus show.