The Flaming Stars – Named and Shamed (CD)

Alternative Tentacles releases the weirdest shit. I’ve been able to get quite a few albums from them, and they never fail to amaze me. This time, The Flaming Stars come through with a Peter Gabriel meets Daniel Ash brand of brit-pop that has more than a passing gaze to the halcyon days of the 1980s. The first track, “She’s Gone”, uses a strong guitar presence and bass-laden drums to work well with Max’s vocals. The same style dominates “Where The Beautiful People Go”, but the latter is more impressive simply because of the way in which the bass (played by Paul Dempsey) is threaded through what was already a very cogent and solid band. “Where The Beautiful People Go” incorporates a Bauhaus meets psychedelic rock feel that makes The Flaming Stars perfect to open for historical giants like 45 Grave. The ability of The Flaming Stars to maintain such a low-key profile in their heavy use of slower-tempos shows a tremendous amount of orthodoxy. By showing a more artistic side in tracks like “The Marabou Shuffle”, the band emphasizes quality and finesse over quantity and intensity. I don’t feel as if the tracks are without pep; just the primeval energy imbued on many a punk track by the organization of the band does not exist in a recognizable form on “Named and Shamed”.

Coming into the forefront during “Another Dial” is one bothersome issue with the mixing of the disc – ewhile it was present to a lesser degree throughout the rest of the disc, this track shows Max’s vocals to lie on and smother the instrumentation on the track. In “Another Dial”, the band splits off and allowsthe guitar to reach to the sky with a finger-searing solo, although one can barely hear it with Max’s crooning on the track. Using a tremendously simple (almost punk-like in its style) guitar progression for “Stranger on the Fifth Floor”, the more upbeat tempo (dare I saw bouncy) allows the track to achieve a form of groove that will delight all in its decidedly bare presentation. “If You Give Them A Chance” incorporates the last important facet of The Flaming Stars; their surf-rock influences, which may only have a few seconds of airtime in a number of tracks indelibly modify their sound regardless of their explicit presence. The disc effectively comes to an end with the instrumental “Bess of the Boneyard”, a track that stops any progress the band may have had and essentially should not have any position on the disc besides the ultimate.

Top Tracks: Strange on the Fifth Floor, The 39 Stops

Rating: 5.8/10

The Flaming Stars – Named and Shamed / 2004 Alternative Tentacles Records / 13 Tracks / / / Reviewed 12 February 2005

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