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The Fleshtones seem to have finally given up on making it big. For years, the band and its fans waited for the album that would be the group’s breakthrough, and while no one expected a million-seller from a collection of garage-band revivalists, it seemed likely that the Fleshtones would eventually make a record that would sell enough to maintain a major-label deal, at the very least. After all, 1981’s Roman Gods and ’83’s Hexbreaker were good, confident records, and the Fleshtones have always been fantastic live, so the group’s moment in the limelight seemed just a matter of waiting. But ever since IRS dropped the band more than a decade ago, the last surviving combo from New York’s new wave scene (by far) has struggled just to get tiny labels to put out its discs (the last three are on Atlanta’s Ichiban), and those at fairly long intervals. On their later records, the Fleshtones have responded to their ongoing obscurity with high-spirited self-parody (“Living Legends,” off Powerstance), low-spirited self-pity (most of Beautiful Light), and high-concept self-positioning (by getting ’90s-cred producer Steve Albini behind the board for the hoarse but lively Laboratory of Sound). But on the new More Than Skin Deep, the only comment they offer about their status is “God Damn It,” on which they bitch for 1:50 about their management. Otherwise, the disc contains a bunch of serviceable but uninspired Fleshtones songs, none in the same league as “The Dreg” or “The World Has Changed.” The only real reason to get More Than Skin Deep is so you’ll know the songs when you see the Fleshtones play them live; the most promising tunes in that regard
are “Smash Crash,” which is sung by
a guy trying to get his record collection back from a vengeful ex, and “Dig In,” which is about zombies. In front of
an audience, the Fleshtones have a knack for making lightweight material compelling.James Lochart