One of the great things about RGM is that on occasion something will turn up that’ll drag you kicking and screaming outside your musical comfort zone. Nothing has reinforced this theory more in recent times than the unexpected arrival of the latest CD by The Flesh Eaters. A band that the press release readily admits to being one of Los Angeles most admired but little-heard bands. I’m pretty sure that situation is about to change as The Flesh Eaters are definitely deserving of that widely admired tag but I’m also sure more people will sit up and take notice as ‘I Used To Be Pretty’ kicks…
For the release of ‘Pretty’ Flesh Eaters founder and songwriter Chris Desjardins aka Chris D is joined by the all-star 1981 line-up of the band that recorded the ‘A Minute To Pray, A Second To Die’ album: Dave Alvin and Bill Bateman (The Blasters); John Doe and D.J. Bonebrake (X) and Steve Berlin (The Plugz, The Blasters, Los Lobos). The Flesh Eaters in the early 80s featured a who’s who of the most influential musicians, from the most influential bands, on the Hollywood music scene.
Mixing up new material with a few well-chosen covers and Flesh Eaters material that this line-up didn’t play on works really well with the various musical components flowing seamlessly (especially for those of us not familiar with the bands back catalogue). The album is bookended by two new compositions as ‘Black Temptation’ kicks things off with the band rockin’ hard straight out of the gate. ‘Temptation’ is equal parts intense, dark and moody with Chris D’s banshee howl supplemented by Berlin’s saxophone, Alvin’s dense, bluesy guitar tones and a striking vocal from Julie Christensen (Stone Cupid, Divine Horsemen, Leonard Cohen and later day Flesh Eaters line-ups). In total contrast, the album concludes with the epic ‘Ghost Cove Lament’ which clocks in at thirteen minutes. Inspired by a piece by flamenco guitarist Manitas de Plata ‘Ghost’ reeks of the Doors at their most sprawling with Chris D sounding like Jim Morrison at his most unhinged/inebriated/inspired (please delete as applicable to your opinion of The Doors). ‘Ghost’ sucks you in and refuses to let go as Alvin and Berlin merge almost into one while Doe, Bateman and Bonebrake lay down intricately atmospheric support.
Including a cover of the Fleetwood Mac, ‘The Green Manalishi’ is frankly inspired. Bands have tackled ‘Manalishi’ successfully in the past, most noticeably Judas Priest but The Flash Eaters and ‘Manalishi’ is a match made in heaven. The band is immense here with Alvin’s thick guitar tone a highlight while Berlin’s jazzy saxophone on the breakdowns is inspired. Of the material previously recorded by other incarnations of the band ‘House amid the Thickets’ has a terrific guitar driven groove that again exhibits a Doors vibe. A crunchin’ ‘My Life To Live’ is energetic early 80s punk with Alvin at full throttle but still with bags of melody while ‘Miss Muerte’ is catchy as all hell from the marimba intro to Alvin finding room to lay down a cool solo. The initially brooding ‘The Youngest Profession’ finds Chris D at his most vocally unhinged while Alvin and Berlin again tear strips off each other as the song explodes into ferocious life.
‘I Used To Be Pretty’ is a very cool record. I know it’s unlikely but if the band members can clear their schedules for some UK dates count me in
The Flesh Eaters - I Used To Be Pretty is out now via Yep Roc Records.