Personnel: Keith Streng (vocals, guitar); Peter Zaremba (vocals, harmonica, organ, percussion); Ken Fox (vocals); Bill Milhizer (drums, percussion, background vocals).
Recording information: Cold Cut Productions, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY (2015-2016); JMC Studios, Sydney, NSW (2015-2016).
Photographer: Vibeke Saugestad.
The Fleshtones played their first gig in 1976, and decades after taking the stage one night at CBGB, the band is not only still together, but has released its 21st album, The Band Drinks for Free. There are groups that have held together longer, but most of them have had a hit record or some moment of serious fame that has allowed them to stay in the spotlight. The Fleshtones have their loyal supporters, but they play to a cult following, not a mass audience, and they've never had anything close to a hit record. It might sound hokey, but the Fleshtones are one band that still does it out of love, and The Band Drinks for Free is a joyous confirmation that these guys still dig the Super Rock sound they've made their own over the past few decades. This band's patented blend of party-friendly garage rock with a dash of R&B and an extra cup of swagger and wit is still serving them well on The Band Drinks for Free, and on tunes like "Suburban Roulette," "The Gasser," and "Rick Wakeman's Cape," they rock as confidently as they did on their '80s classics Roman Gods and Hexbreaker! The Band Drinks for Free boasts a slightly more polished production than their past few albums, and there are finer details in the mix (additional guitars and keys, backing vocals, wailing party guests) than one might expect, which flatters poppier and more melodic numbers like "How to Make a Day" and "Stupid ol' Sun." But this still sounds like the Fleshtones, and they're in grand form; Peter Zaremba's vocals and keys are in fine shape, Keith Streng's guitars and occasional vocal leads are tough and energetic, and the rhythm section of Ken Fox (bass) and Bill Milhizer (drums) can still stomp for all it's worth. While the harp-fueled blues workout "The Sinner" shows that 12-bar is not their strong suit, otherwise The Band Drinks for Free is another winner from a band that still knows what they're doing. If anything, since the dawn of the 21st century, the Fleshtones have been on a roll in terms of record making, releasing some of the strongest and most winning LPs of their career, and this album confirms these guys have plenty more free drinks coming to them in the foreseeable future. ~ Mark Deming
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