BY FRED MILLS
We are advised that Austin’s Flesh Lights began life as a guy-gal duo (cousins, in fact) from San Antonio who operated under a succession of “ill-advised names” before expanding into the proverbial power trio—term used loosely, as this ain’t yer mama’s Cream or Grand Funk. Free Yourself, the followup to 2012’s Muscle Pop debut, does indeed bring power to the table, boatloads, in fact, while keeping six feet planted equally in ‘60s rawk (the Who would seem to be in inspiration) and early ‘90s punk (hello, Superchunk). That those two namechecks refer to quartets and not trios is incidental; Flesh Lights make the kind of righteous racket that would require lesser groups to deploy five or more members.
My classic rock invocations here ain’t strictly for show: on tracks like the propulsive, jittery “Mandarin” and the swaggering, chiming “You Might Know” the Lights come off like a cross between the Stooges and Killer era Alice Cooper Group. Soon enough, though, the band morphs into a 3-headed hardcore hydra: check the nonstop romps that are “Free Yourself” and “Big Break” (the lyrics to the latter, about “all the arenas I should have played” and “all the people I should have fucked” speak to the opportunity-squanderer in us all). And several cuts are delightful throwbacks to early ‘90s Chapel Hill and Seattle, just to complete the magical history tour these folks serve up.
On paper this might not seem all that original, but trust me, the vim, vigor and vitality on display here simply proves the old maxim of “if it ain’t broke…” and in the end, Flesh Lights will make you glad that punk is still alive and well out there in the hinterlands and not just the cultural currency of fresh-scrubbed suburban dolts being dropped off at the local Hot Topic by their SUV-driving parachute moms. To paraphrase a great philosopher, free yourself and your ass will follow, kids.
DOWNLOAD: “You Might Know,” “Big Break,” “Teen Filth” [Initial copies of the LP come in yellow vinyl.]