Familiar and still fun, The Fleshtones deliver again
Face of the Screaming Werewolf – The Fleshtones (Yep Roc)
The Fleshtones always were always out of step with the rest of the pack . Rarely acknowledged in the same breath as the rest of the Class of CBGB partly because they didn’t pander to tastemakers and partly because they arrived from out of town and were slightly late, they were as guilty as any of their peers for washing up on the barren shores of over-indulgence at the expense of mainstream success. So it is that they’ve remained in their own universe for decades now. But they still deliver.
The Fleshtones really do exist on their own terms. They live for the road. They make great records with a touch of eccentricity. They’ve always soaked up classic influences (British invasion, blueswailin’ R&B, garage rock, soul and more) like a sponge to spit them back out like they invented them. There are other bands doing the same thing but few so it so well, or deliver a show.
We’ve all experienced a band that’s sensational live but is unable to translate its energy and excitement to their records. That’s been a criticism of The Fleshtones but it doesn’t bear up, and maybe it was only ever made because the band is so great in person.
“Face of the Screaming Werewolf” is named in honour of a Lon Chaney horror movie and there’s a dedication on the sleeve to The Cowan Research Institute that’s referenced in the film (go down this rabbit hole if you want to know more.) Apart from the title track, the record doesn’t go down the schlock rock path.
“Werewolf” was recorded in friend Michael Giblin’s Red Chuck home studio in Pennsylvania, and it sounds like it was fun to record. By now, we know what to expect from a Fleshtones record. The Fleshtones don’t push any envelopes - and we don’t expect them to.
There are cultural reference points (“Alex Trebek” is an ode to the veteran Jeopardy host, “Cherry Ripe, Violet Crumble” a celebration of sex and/or confectionery), a couple of stomping instrumentals (the self explanatory “Swinging Planet X” and the blues-twang “Somerset Morning”), a fiery fuzz pop song (“Ya Gotta Love, Love”) and an anthemic earwig (“Manpower Debut”).
The ragged cover of the Stones’ “Child of the Moon” does the Fleshies’ reputation for creative cannibalising no harm and the pretty “Waiting on a Girl” brings the doo wop pop of the band members’ teen radio listening years into play.
In the end, it’s a Fleshtones album and on a par with anything they’ve delivered for the past 20 years. Peter Zaremba wails, Keith Streng adds guitar colour and the rhythm section cooks. Handclaps and blues harp abounds. Super Rock won’t change the world but it does make it a better place.