Pop Culture Gadabout
Monday, March 03, 2008
      ( 3/03/2008 08:58:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"LOOKS LIKE WE'RE IN THE MIDDLE OF A HIPSTER OVERSPILL." To those who believe that rock 'n' roll is best when it's rude 'n' raucous, the Fleshtones are Roman Gods. A fixture on the NYC club scene for over three decades (check out their live performance on the IRS punk/new wave concert flick, URGH: A MUSIC WAR), the self-described jet-setters have just released yet another set of sweaty odes to beer, short skirts and perpetual immaturity. Somewhere in a Dionysian afterlife, the late Senator Bluto Blutarsky is surely stoopidly grinning.

Longtime fans'll already know what to expect: stings of Seeds-y guitar riffs, great gobs of harmonica moaning, moaning vocals from a seemingly soused Peter Zaremba, cheesy keyboard pumping, plus rock-'em-sock-'em basswork from onetime Nashville Scorcher Ken Fox. You either dig this retro sound or find it annoyingly stunted, but if the idea of a song that lyrically calls back to the Kingsmen's "Annie Fannie" tickles your fancy, then you've probably already pulled out your church key and started guzzling. The rest of you would-be cool folk, as Zaremba observes in "Love Yourself," can just go back to moping and feeling sorry for your sorry-ass selves. "I'm the same as I always was," the boys chant in guitarist Keith Streng's aptly titled buzzathon "Never Grew Up" - and more power to 'em.

Thus, the gang sings about the joys of quaffing a brew on the boardwalk ("Ruby's Olde Time") and grunting on the club floor (check out the Isley-esque opener to "Jet-Set Fleshtones"), occasionally stopping to offer a danceable self-help homily like "There's no greater wealth than your mental health." The raucousness even extends to New Orleans Huey Smith & the Clowns-styled r-&-b (Fox's "New York City"), a prerequisite on every good sixties era frat rock platter.

Elsewhere, the boys verge on the cheerfully poppy with "This Time, Josephine" and sing about getting an "edumacation" in "Back to School," which could've served as the theme to the Rodney Dangerfield comedy (wherein the great man, lest we forget, sang his own version of "Twist And Shout"). If it all sounds like you've heard it all before, well, you probably have. After more than twenty releases, the 'tones aren't gonna monkey with their greasy "super rock" sound.

The whole shmear climaxes with Look's title track, with the group challenging its audience to cast off all pretensions and simply dig the sound of fuzz and frug. By the time Zaremba starts shrieking into the mic like the Cramps' Lux Interior (the two bands once shared rehearsal space back in the early days), you've learned all you need to know about the glories of non-ironic, smartly primitive rock 'n' roll.
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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