Alternative Tentacles releases the weirdest shit. Iâ€™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, â€œSheâ€™s Goneâ€, uses a strong guitar presence and bass-laden drums to work well with Maxâ€™s vocals. The same style dominates â€œWhere The Beautiful People Goâ€, 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. â€œWhere The Beautiful People Goâ€ 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 â€œThe Marabou Shuffleâ€, the band emphasizes quality and finesse over quantity and intensity. I donâ€™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 â€œNamed and Shamedâ€.
Coming into the forefront during â€œAnother Dialâ€ is one bothersome issue with the mixing of the disc â€“ ewhile it was present to a lesser degree throughout the rest of the disc, this track shows Maxâ€™s vocals to lie on and smother the instrumentation on the track. In â€œAnother Dialâ€, the band splits off and allowsthe guitar to reach to the sky with a finger-searing solo, although one can barely hear it with Maxâ€™s crooning on the track. Using a tremendously simple (almost punk-like in its style) guitar progression for â€œStranger on the Fifth Floorâ€, 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. â€œIf You Give Them A Chanceâ€ 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 â€œBess of the Boneyardâ€, 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
The Flaming Stars â€“ Named and Shamed / 2004 Alternative Tentacles Records / 13 Tracks / http://www.oslater.demon.co.uk / http://www.alternativetentacles.com / Reviewed 12 February 2005