PICTURES OF YOU - The Romeo Flynns (What's Left Records)
Detroit, a lunch-pail burg devoid of any scenic attractions, historical traditions, or high-cultural scenes has to be proud of something and despite what the Japanese, residents of New Orleans, or Nords may lead you to believe, there are still three things we’ve always done better than anyone else: 1) build gas guzzling wrecks with a casual, dismissive wave of one hand and a recreational beverage in the other, 2) kill each other with equally-studied nonchalance and a creative bent toward firearms, knives, and blunt objects, and 3) make music measured not in decibels, but in mega-death capability.
Although the big-riffed, straight-between-the-eyes pop of The Romeo Flynns is a giant step to the side and a generation removed from the ugly speedrock of energy fascists like the MC5 and Stooges, their respective journeys have some obvious common ground besides an area code, rooted firmly in the garage, sensibilities corrupted and attention spans obliterated by an intoxicating mix of volume, momentum, and melody. Since The Romeo Flynns have reached the tender age of 40 or 50-something with their collective grey matter relatively intact, though, it’s probably safe to assume their approach to Class 1 narcotics has more to do with moderation or abstinence than go-for-broke abandon.
“Pictures of You,” a 12-track travelogue of a relationship gone way south - with all its attendant loss, desire, and teeth-gnashing catharsis - surrenders itself completely to the loud, chiming, buzzing, fizzing guitars which earmark all great power pop, D. Lawrence Lee’s (ex-Shake) songs paying homage to The Girl, pulsating and piled with hooky enthusiasm and driven by an engine room (bassist Jimmy Moroney and drummer Jeff Kenny) that grabs most everything here by the scruff of the neck and makes it swing and twitch like a backwoods revival, complete with snake handling and jelly jars of arsenic all around.
The title track, “Gonna Feel Alright” (complete with a Roxy-like sax break and what sounds suspiciously like a farfisa buried in there somewhere), and “A Better Man Than Me” all stomp, shimmy, grind, and burst forth with howling exuberance and a spray of sweat, almost as if The Romantics never signed to Nemperor, The Romeo Flynns refusing to let their long shadow or specter of those red leather togs and boofy coifs darken their doorway, perfectly happy to plow their own way down the path to unvarnished, knees-up, Vox and Rickenbacker wonderland without any distractions.
Bonus points accrue for not only covering the witness protection program-denizen Kinks, but cherrypicking an absolute jewel from their post-“Low Budget” catalog, the long-neglected “Better Things,” and keeping things interesting even when the pace slows down, from the beautifully baroque “Every Time We Part” and “Kristine” to the brooding “Something About Her.”
“Pictures of You,” is just about the last thing you’d expect coming out of the Murder City these days as a walking-dead army of shell-shocked garage rats, A&R hacks, and aging hipster doofuses chase down the next big thing, something undoubtedly nurtured in gimmickry and saddled with expectations of big coin, The Romeo Flynns safe in the knowledge that something as pure and uncomplicated as a simple pop song can purge their souls, deliver them from evil, and loosen a little plaster along the way.
Get your wallet out. - Clark Paull
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