BACK TO SCHOOL – The Flakes (Dollar Records records)
The dictionary defines a “flake” as “a somewhat eccentric person; an oddball” and a quick dip into this, the debut album for these Bay Area Californians, or a glance at their rudimentary website, recalls a saying about wearing caps that fit. This is unhinged garage gloop, a raucous rattle through a boxful of ‘60s punk band bones that’ll bring a smile to the dial of '80s garage revivalists who wish they were there, as well superannuants who actually were.
No surprise to see ex-Mummies timekeeper Russell Quan behind the kit. The Flakes take up where that band left off, albeit in a slightly more tuneful way. More twang than outright bang, The Flakes are still as tinny as canned food and twice as nutritious. (God knows, Quan must need nutrition - he's playing simultaneously in the Phantom Surfers, Bippies, Bobbyteens and Guy-guys, I'm reliably informed).
A lot of West Coast garage revival bands moved on at the start of the ‘90s, growing their hair and plugging into psychedelica or country rock. Grunge wiped most of them away. Movingon is not for The Flakes. They serve up a combo of their own wayward originals and a stack of minor-key garage classics, existing in their own hazy, bowl-cut world. Staples like "Shake" (The Ohio Express), "Hold On I'm Comin' " (Sam & Dave) and “Open Up Your Door" (Richard and the Young Lions) are chewed up and spat out in an off-hand way that could make you doubt their sanity, but not their taste.
This is probably the cruddiest version of the Stones’ "Stupid Girl" ever committed to tape. That’s why I love it.
John McDonald has the perfect pipes for this stuff, and the ragged accompaniment (Brett Stillo and Greg Fenwick on guitars, Joaquin Turner on bass, Quan on drums) is as loose as you can get without being mistaken for a chairless Stephen Hawkin in a dance contest. As strong as the Bay Area garage scene may be, there's probably a whole crew of San Francisco rockers who loathe them for their lack of flash. You're either into the trash asthetic or not.
If you think you've heard it all before, take some solace in the fact that The Flakes don't take what they do particularly seriously. The album sounds like a 14-track party. Think of The Flakes as demented chefs cranking up a Mixmaster full of ‘60s punk, throwing in lashings of roughed-up R & B and coming up with a greasy cake in the finest traditions of Budget Rock. If that means they’re not fashion of the week, try telling someone who cares. Damn sure they don’t give a fuck. – The Barman
TO THE REVIEWS PAGE
BACK TO THE BAR