TAKE A GOOD LOOK - The Fleshtones (Yeproc/Shock)
Three years and hundreds of concerts after the excellent "Beachhead" (Yep Roc, 2005) the Fleshtones return with a bunch of new songs. Excellent, as usual. That’s no surprise at all: Peter Zaremba, Keith Streng, Bill Milhizer and Ken Fox have found the long-life elixir and hit the mark once again.
If you except their first two albums – legendary "Roman Gods" (1981) and "Hexbreaker" (1983) - the NYC band have released their best records in the last decade, starting from the groundbreaking "More Than Skin Deep" (1997). It demonstrates the artistic maturity, freshness and longevity that many people envy them. And this new “Take A Good Look!” is no exception.
Co-produced by a cult-hero as Ivan Julian (former Richard Hell’s Voidoids), the new Fleshtones album is a bit different from the previous band’s efforts “Beachhead” and Do You Swing?”. Those albums showed the classic “Super-Rock” formula, that fantastic mixture of garage, beat & rock’n’roll which is the Fleshtones’ trademark. In this new album the band from Brooklyn use their usual ingredients (fuzz guitars and vintage organ) but open their sonic solutions’ range to give us another half-an-hour of pure pleasure as a present.
nstead of going fast as always the Fleshtones accelerate or slow down the rhythms as they like. So they play their classic party-songs like the open-track "First Date (Are you coming on to me?)" or the liquid "Jet Set Fleshtones" and great ballads with a folkish flavour ("This Time Josephine") at the same time. However the result doesn’t change: fun is assured!
It’s impossible to stand still listening to the “Shiney Hiney” hooky choruses and guitars or the “Going Back To School” and “Love Yourself” refrains. It’s impossible not to beat the time listening to the riffs of the fantastic “Never Grew Up” or “Feels Good To Feel” or “New York City” which is enriched by a saxophone.
This time again don’t’ miss the chance to enjoy the Fleshtones new album. And do trust me: No Fleshtones? No party! - Roberto Calabrò
The next time someone writes a review lauding New York City's Fleshtones as a "portable party machine", smack 'em in the mouth and tell 'em not to be so frigging lazy. The Fleshtones have been around since Jesus played fullback for Jerusalem and that's the best these inspid cock-scratchers (thanks very much, RY) can do? It's downright insulting - to fans AND the 'Tones.
I suppose, like many people in Australia, The Fleshtones really came to my proper notice in the late-'80s when Dave Faulkner struck up a professional association. The Head Hoodoo Guru took a real shine to Peter Zaremba's gang after sharing a Stateside stage (but they were probably already on the same page) and produced 1991's "Powerstance", a not inconsiderable long-player that showed the band to be much more than your two-bit, two-dimensional garage rockers-cum-powerpop throwbacks.
A flick back through the band's catalogue before and since will show they aren't prudish about pushing envelopes in the stylistic sense, churning out everything from primal rockers to downright commercial efforts (I'm referencing the Peter Buck-produced "Beautiful Light" here) that stand up with the best by any of their peers. The band self-classifies its music as SUPER ROCK which is as good a term as any for an amalgam of every worthwhile rock and roll record you ever owned or heard.
Somehow, The Fleshtones manage to straddle multiple gaps between genres and employ horns, keyboards, soul stylisations and good ole rock and roll in more guises than False Face from the Batman TV series. Which isn't to say they're changeling whores, just possessors of receptive ears and massive record collections.
"Take a Good Look" finds The Fleshtones on middle-weight label Yeproc in their homeland via (indie in name only) distro operation Shock in Australia, which you'd think would give rise to this 'un being available in lotsa places that stock good music. Or so the theory goes. Reality is you'll probably have to push your local record shop hard to stock anything decent these does amid the price volume deals from majors, so don't feel afraid to lay on the American Mafia method acting and threaten to kick in their windows if they don't order it in, OK?
"First Date (Are You Coming On To Me)" crackles like good greasy R & B should but "Take A Good Look" really starts to kick flesh with "Shiney Hiney", a manic belter with arm-wrestling Keith Streng guitar solo. From then on in, "Take A Good Look" pushes all the pedals, from stomping fuzz and harp ("Feels Good To Feel", "Take A Good Look") to clap along beat ("New York City") and an organ-driven call-and-response soul self-declamation ("Jet Set Fleshtones".)
"Going Back To School" shows the Tones to be driven by one of the finest engine rooms on earth (drummer Bill Milhizer and relative newcomer bassist Ken Fox - he only joined 18 years ago.)
Several previous efforts have been augmented (most notably by horns)_ but it's guitar and Zaremba's organ that fills out the sound. There's no apology proffered or needed if this sounds like the last few Fleshtones albums.
So f you're as guilty as many around these parts for forgetting how great The Fleshtones
If only the Gurus-Fleshtone connection would translate into a modern-day tandem Australian tour. As they used to say in a football TV commercial (and not the one that made Dave Faulkner a squillion) : "I'd like to see that". - The Barman
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