There's been just about every kind of "The" band out there in the last few years. Ever since the rise of The Strokes, Hives and White Stripes, the floodgate opened for anyone trying to indulge in a more garage sound. And in 2004, all the "The" bands went from recycling sixties and seventies rock over to the sometimes gritty, other times gothic side of eighties new wave. Despite the slight change, contemporary rock music is sounding a little past due, relying on the cool kids' sense of nostalgia to make a hit.
But then there's The Flesh, a fearless quartet hailing from Brooklyn whose creative recycling of eighties, R&B and hip hop, alongside Bible references and Freudian thought create a new world order in both music that dares its competitors to keep up with the times.
The Flesh's original lineup formed back in 2001 with singer/guitarist Nat Halpern and Jason Binnick, the dynamic duo since 1999. Binnick, who also sells art, is the son of a former jazz arranger/producer for Philadelphia Motown. Keyboardist/vocalist Gabriella Zappia quickly joined the band after seeing them perform upon re-entering the U.S., after living illegally for some time in the U.K. Pete Angovine is the band's drummer, just recently replacing Gregory Rogove, who appears on all three releases.
The Flesh released two Eps, Sweet Defeat and Death Connection, in 2003, serving a few tracks featured on the full-length. Although the tracks are some of the band's poppiest, they gained the attention from producer Martin Bisi, a man known for working with a handful of sinister and depressed musicians like Iggy Pop and Sonic Youth. Aside from the jazz, funk and soul, The Flesh sound like a mix of late seventies/early eighties bands like The Stranglers, The Birthday Party and The Cramps.
In addition to Freud and The Old Testament, Halpern names David Cronenberg's film Videodrome as a major Flesh influence, which serves up apocalyptic doom in exchange for sins of the flesh. Themes on the album, which turn out sounding a lot more like creeds to live by, include sex, death, salvation and evolution. The Flesh baptize themselves from the sins of conventional thought, reveling in the depths of enlightenment like no one else, resulting in a disc truly worth praying for.
The band likes to wrap themselves in layers of Smith and Bowie just as much as they long for inspiration from Brooklyn's own Jay Z on "Foes," where Zappia and Halpern throw a jab of R&B or rap in wherever it fits. "Cuts"uses Zappia's freaked out organ to perfect a choir sung-chorus (You will cross the mountains/you will cross the earth/Jumping and a-shaking to the city of your birth), mocking the human need for greed; a song inspired by Cash Money Millionaires. Halpern ruminates on the death of his drug-addicted mother on "Fall to Heaven," taking the album to tougher reality, while revealing a cause for Halpern's obsession with divination.
With bands like The Killers and Franz Ferdinand hailed by critics as "the Best" within the new wave of eighties rejuvenators, there isn't much room for change in the mainstream scene. But in the realm of the underground, goth rock/pop and R&B/rap have truly found a home together in the Flesh's refreshing revelations.
at 2/19/2005 11:06:00 AM