Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Fleshtones

  • Up-Front [I.R.S. EP, 1980] B-
  • Roman Gods [I.R.S., 1981] B+
  • Blast Off! [ROIR, 1982] B
  • Hexbreaker [I.R.S., 1983] B-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Up-Front [I.R.S. EP, 1980]
I didn't believe they were nothing but a party until I witnessed them leap out on the NYU stage tossing packs of Camels to the mob, then demolish Nervus Rex in a battle of the bands. And from these five songs you still won't believe it. Best but not great is "The Girl From Baltimore"--real party city, cross between Philly and D.C., none of which the song implies. Nervus Rex album's pretty nice. B-

Roman Gods [I.R.S., 1981]
This is where they get the junk-rock down--reckless enthusiasm plus the less stylish strains of late-'60s dance music add up to their own groove. But though it's hooky and endearing, it's short on what one might call nuggets, which is why a whole side of unexceptionably jet-propelled tracks tends to lose momentum. In fact, whenever I try to concentrate for even an entire cut, my mind starts to wander, just like with Jackson Browne. B+

Blast Off! [ROIR, 1982]
As a student of history I'm glad these mythic 1978 sessions are finally for sale; as a connoisseur of inspired amateurism I must remind fun-seekers that magic is hard to mass-produce. The cruddy sound doesn't make it any more like being there, and after the wacko "Soul Struttin'" and the anthemic "American Beat" I start daydreaming about the next garage. B

Hexbreaker [I.R.S., 1983]
Fun is a fine principle, but it works better when you start with the fun than when you start with the principle, which is why so much theoretically unpretentious rock and roll sounds forced anyway. Gets harder with every album, too. This is number three. B-