Artist: The Fleshtones
Album: The Band Drinks for Free
Label: Yep Roc Records
Release: September 2nd 2016
There are certainties in life like death, taxes and the Fleshtones. For the last 40 years, these New York garage rockers have been playing some of the most fun shows you could ever experience and have kept churning out albums and singles galore.
This is their 21st studio effort. And from the first note it’s unmistakably Fleshtones. They own the Ten Years After semi-classic ‘Love like a Man.’ The blues rocker turns cocktail party shaker. It’s their timeless blend of wild party garage rock and crooner suaveness. Think Sinatra and the Ratpack meets Spencer Davis Group. It’s like you’ve wandered into the coolest party nobody told you about. Guest starring on the outro is none other than the Bellrays’ Lisa Kekula.
They turn things up a notch on ‘Love my Lover,’ lead vocals bellowed out by the acrobatic guitar player Keith Streng. This is the ‘tones firing on all cylinders. Big, catchy and soulful chorus, jangly guitars and a beat that you can help but clap and shake your ass to.
Then it’s time for the ingeniously titled ‘Rick Wakeman’s Cape.’ I reached out my good friend, Count Peter Zaremba to get a bit of a background to some of the tunes.
“One thing is that ‘Rick Wakeman’s Cape’ came to me in a dream, like ‘Hipster Heaven’,” he said. “The whole song, but couldn’t remember the words that I had to write from scratch. In both cases I woke up laughing from the dreams… Wish that would happen more often!”
Another stand out is the up tempo rocker ‘Suburban Roulette.’
“Suburban Roulette is a Kenny (Ken Fox, bass player, and still the new guy, joined the band in 1990) song we originally were going to record for Beach Head, or was it even earlier,” Zaremba said. “Glad Kenny brought it back to our attention.”
Things take a bit of an unexpected turn on the moody ‘Respect our Love.’ It starts out with a melancholic, jangly guitar reminiscent of the Dream Syndicate, but bursts into another big soulful chorus. One of my personal favorites.
Speaking of songs that are a bit different – here’s what Peter had to say about ‘the Sinner.’
“Probably the hardest song to get just right was, surprisingly, ‘the Sinner’ because it wasn’t a tossed off filler like many blues jams are,” he said. “We worked pretty hard avoiding the hallmarks of the white band playing really corny blues!”
That’s another cool thing about the Fleshtones, unlike the million and one ‘garage rock’ purist bands that just copy the Sonics or the Music Machine, the Fleshtones incorporate all of their vast musical influences into what they call ‘Super Rock’ – from 50ts r&b, to punk, funk, disco, and beyond.
Lyrically, besides the goofy jokes, there’s also a certain wisdom that comes from dealing with the ups and downs of life. Well into middle age, the guys stand alone as a working band that started out back in the CB’s/Max Kansas City days. With a lot of their peers either dead, forgotten or moved on to more ‘age-appropriate’ vocations, the Fleshtones keep professing their gospel of love, fun and rock’n roll.
Lastly, for all you record collecting dorks out there:
“You might find it interesting, or frustrating, that none of the songs from our recent 7’s are included on the album, and that includes the song ‘the Band Drinks For Free,’ which after all is the title of the album,” Zaremba added.