For all you punk and garage rock junkies out there living in an age dominated by pop, rap and hip-hop music, there is still hope for getting your garage rock fix from new releases. The Fleshtones’ latest album, “Wheel of Talent” is a refreshing blast from the past that features the head-pounding, sweat-inducing, mosh-friendly, 1960s and 1970s style of rock music that just isn’t very common nowadays. Fans of the genre will undoubtedly appreciate the riotous and energetic music this album has to offer.
The Fleshtones formed back in 1976 and have been producing music on a pretty consistent basis since then. With their new album, I wondered what the band would be able to offer after many years of experience. The simple answer came when I realized that “Wheel of Talent” stays true to the garage rock genre and gives its listeners the gift of time travel by allowing them to truly experience the sound of an almost forgotten style of rock music.
Unlike current artists in this genre — such as Ty Segall and the Black Lips, who take garage rock and add new elements into the mix — the Fleshtones stick to the garage rock tradition. Instead, what this album does is bring back an older style of music, exactly how it was back in the day. All of the original punk and garage rock elements of that time period, such as aggressive vocals and fast-paced chord strumming, are present and without any significant changes from the way they were used when bands like the Sonics, or even the Clash, were around. Even fans of today’s garage rock revival bands will be right at home listening to this older style.
This is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it is likely the entire objective of the album. Tracks like “Remember The Ramones” give obvious allusions to past artists who arose during this time period. The song is practically a tribute to a style of music that is no longer prevalent in our current time. Not only does the song repeatedly chant the recurring lyric, “We remember the Ramones,” the song has guitar chord progressions that are undoubtedly similar to those frequently used by the praised band. Other tracks such as “Available” critique the modern use of social media outlets such as Facebook. On this note, the album gives brief commentary on our current culture and offers music from the past as an alternative, suggesting that maybe the old times were better times — and if not, they were definitely different.
Despite lacking innovation, “Wheel of Talent” is solid musically and stays true to its roots. Tracks like “Roofarama” and “It Is As It Was” feature the classic sound of a fast-paced, head-bopping, fuzz-filled guitar coupled with loud and upbeat vocals. These tracks will have you rocking your head to the beat, wishing you were in the middle of a mosh pit. In contrast, other tracks like “What I’ve Done Before” slow down the pace a bit and offer choruses that beg listeners to sing along. This track, along with others, implements the use of brass instruments as well as the keyboard to give off a fun and uplifting vibe. Additional tracks, like “Hipster Heaven” and “Tear for Tear,” feature a surf rock-infused vibe that is sure to remind listeners of past artists like the Rivieras and pop-surf bands like the Beach Boys.
Overall, every track comes together to form an album that is nostalgic, fun and overall enjoyable to listen to. Although the album will probably not result in a garage rock revival, it is still worthwhile to anyone who is a fan of this genre — not to mention the fact that it barely exceeds 30 minutes. “Wheel of Talent” is definitely an album worth a listen.
Rating: 3.5 stars