Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Fleshtones - It's Super Rock Time! The I.R.S. Years 1980-1985

The Fleshtones had too many parallel passions---and knew exactly what to do with every last one of them---to be dismissed as mere garage rock revivalists. In the middle of what they used to call New Wave, the Fleshtones must have confused a few too many people. Their rhythm section belonged as much to 1960s soul (and as much to the Rascals as Stax) as it did the classic garage bands to whom they were (and still are) usually aligned. Lead singer Peter Zaremba sounded as though he spent at least as much time learning from the Yardbirds' Keith Relf as from the Seeds' snarling Sky Saxon (he was probably the most elementary harmonica blower since Relf, too), while his keyboard sounds may have exhumed the vintage cheeseball Farfisa/Vox but rarely burred their way too far afront the backbeat. Lead guitarist Keith Streng sounded as though he owed as much to Steve Cropper as he did to any fuzz-box-bending punk down the block or sneaking into an Electric Prunes session. And the whole thing had a patina that hinted without reaching all the way to power pop. (They were simply too energetic and unapologetic for that.) The Fleshtones, in short, plopped all those ingredients into a rock and roll Mixmaster and didn't seem to object that not every speed was the high speed for driving attachments.

It made (and still does) for incandescent rock and roll and should have made for incandescent commercial success. Except that the Fleshtones were (and remain) too far short of the smugger-than-thou implosiveness of punk (and, later, grunge) and too far divorced from dance music's early 1980s descent into faceless automatonism. Their music was (and remains) too steeped in the idea that rock and roll has a history to be enhanced, not nostalgised. You can't revive what you never let go of in the first place. And they still crank it out today, sounding (not to mention writing and covering) like anything except a bunch of aging wretches living on the past.

But if you want to get your hands and ears on what made their name in the first place, this is going to have to do until their entire IRS catalog (which has been out of print for years) is unearthed and remastered. Come to think of it, you're almost there with this set, anyway---everything from "Roman Gods" is here except for "Chinese Kitchen," and that's a loss. (Dare yourself to think of anyone else who could imagine the Yardbirds as surf music, which is exactly the way "Chinese Kitchen" sounds.) On the other hand, you get most of their best early music ("Fleshtone '77," "R-I-G-H-T-S," "Roman Gods," "The World Has Changed," "Hope Come Back") and the single best soul cover of their time, their rip-snorting remake of Lee Dorsey's "Ride Your Pony" (written by Aaron Neville, a minor hit amidst Dorsey's ongoing inability to nail anything as popular as "Ya-Ya"), on which they achieve what only a very few (including the Beatles' "Twist and Shout," incidentally) have managed: they bury the original beneath the ocean floor. Add to that the six best songs from "Hexbreaker" and a couple of more delicious odds and ends, and this should hold you very nicely until that IRS catalog is resurrected.

"It's Super-Rock Time!" has the virtue of living up to its self-congratulatory title. Their fans have been saying that on the threshold of Fleshtones shows for years. Maybe the rest of rock and roll will catch on at last.

01. The Dreg (Fleshtone-77) (3:13)
02. The World Has Changed (3:12)
03. New Scene (2:54)
04. Screamin' Skull (3:26)
05. I've Gotta Change My Life (2:28)
06. Shadow Line (3:11)
07. All Around The World (3:19)
08. Right Side Of A Good Thing (3:31)
09. Stop Fooling Around (4:00)
10. The Girl From Baltimore (2:31)
11. Hexbreaker (4:11)
12. What's So New (About You)? (2:48)
13. R-I-G-H-T-S (2:35)
14. Roman Gods (4:41)
15. Deep In My Heart (3:10)
16. Hope Come Back (2:26)
17. Let's See The Sun (2:40)
18. Ride Your Pony (3:17)
19. The Theme From "The Vindicators" (2:23)
20. American Beat '84 (3:28)
21. Hide And Seek (Live) (2:42)
22. Return To The Haunted House (Live) (2:16)
23. Watch This (Live) (2:29)
24. I'm Back (Live) (2:15)
25. La La La La (Live) (3:43)



blxl said...

Same time period, but previously unreleased:

We refer to it as "Analog Music from a Lost World" -- previously unreleased post-punk experimental rock from 1981, unlike anything else recorded before or after.

"Shinjuku Birdwalk reveals a group of musicians that were ahead of their time. The music is eerily magnetic and should appeal to those who like to stray off the safe path. This is a must-download." --

"Hopefully, some enterprising reissue label will snatch this one up, as it's too good to exist only in the ephemeral form of a download." -- Mutant Sounds

Jason Sigal, Managing Director at WFMU said:
"This is amazing stuff and we would be honored to feature it in wfmu's curated portal on the free music archive. I'm very sorry for our slow response, we have a lot of stuff to wade through to find gems like these."

hotrodmike said...

Thanks a lot for this great comp. I've been looking for this one for a while now.

Andy Rampage said...


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