The Fleshtones | Face of the Screaming Werewolf | (Yep Roc)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Throughout The Fleshtones’ forty-plus years of playing a brand of gritty, exuberant, often caffeinated roots music they affectionately dub “super rock,” the scrappy New York City quartet has experienced more ups and downs, and churned through more record labels, than any of their peers. Not surprisingly, there are none left.
That leaves the mighty Fleshtones as the last men standing from New York City’s CBGB based punk explosion of the late 70s. Even though the band wasn’t specifically alligned to that genre like The Ramones, their music never strayed far from punk’s aggressive, DIY roots. Now on album number 22 (!), The Fleshtones have not only found a stable home at the Yep Roc label (since 2003) but have stayed the course musically. No one is expecting the Peter Zaremba/Keith Streng led outfit to reinvent their dependable musical wheel at this late stage but Face of the Screaming Werewolf is another solid offering from the ageing, faithful rockers doing what they have always done best;crank out tight, tough garage rawk infused with sly, even wacky, humor.
Whether pushing psychedelic buttons with the spiraling, swampy, sneering Cramps influenced “Violet Crumble, Cherry Pie” or paying tribute to Jeopardy’s “Alex Trebek” on a slice of cool Farfisa inflected Brit Invasion pop or spinning out a Rolling Stones obscurity with “Child of the Moon” (the disc’s sole cover), The Fleshtones sound typically energized and invigorated playing music they love with no concerns of generating new fans to their existing cult.
Zaremba isn’t a great vocalist, but he’s a magnetic front person. He gets by on sheer chutzpah talk/singing the strutting “Manpower Debut” while adding ragged harmonica to the frantic rockabilly of “The Show is Over” and the slower, bluesy closing instrumental “Somerset Morning.” The stomping “Spilling Blood (At the Rock & Roll Show)” would have fit in on the band’s 1982 debut album and the twangy title track is another crunchy horror show gem with maracas and a stinging stun guitar solo from Streng.
Only one of the eleven tunes breaks the three minute mark which makes this animated half hour traipse into Fleshtones-land a little on the short side. But even if there’s nothing here quite as entertainingly flippant as “Rick Wakeman’s Cape” from the band’s previous 2016 set, it’s another impressive notch on their ever enlarging album belt they can display with pride.
Can The Flestones make it to a 50th anniversary? All indications are go.