From the opening notes of the new Flamin' Groovies album, Fantastic Plastic, it was very obvious that this was going to be a great record. Producer Joel Jaffe has rounded up the wild beasties that make up The Flamin' Groovies and helped them create a fresh new 21st Century record that fits right in line with their legacy.
The first thing I noticed was that this new album sounds very much like the live Flamin' Groovies I've seen over the past several years, a version of the band that seems to have made peace with its split personality past. That balance finds a happy midway between the raw Rolling Stones flavor of the early Roy Loney-era of the band (Teenage Head, Flamingo, etc.) and the pure pop for all mod cons new wave Brit pop of the Sire Records era (Shake Some Action, Now and Jumpin' in the Night).
While the band wears its influences proudly on its sleeve, this is no tossed off effort. No, Fantastic Plastic shines in its attention to detail -- and timeliness -- from the slamming Stones-meets-Byrds album opener "WhatThe Hell Is Going On?" to the one-two punch follow on "End Of The World." The kickin' cover of NRBQ's "I Want You So Bad" sounds like a lost Byrds classic in this production! Lots of 12-string electric (probably Rickenbacker) guitar on this recording -- it sounds pretty huge! There are many other classic rock 'n roll touchstones and reference points throughout Fantastic Plastic but I won't spoil it for those influence-hunters who like to connect-the-dots for yourself.
Singer Chris Wilson is sounding strong and invigorated while guitarist and band co-founder Cyril Jordan sounds road tested and ready to rock a new generation of fans -- which is precisely what they have been doing on tour around the world over the past few years. Together their voices blend superbly and the songs simply rock.
The sound is uniformly excellent on this CD, again a testament to producer Joel Jaffe (Ringo Starr, Bonnie Raitt, etc.). Big guitar and natural amplifier tones rule the day here. I'll know better when I hear and review the vinyl version but Fantastic Plastic could arguably be one of the best sounding Flamin' Groovies albums to date! (And this does make me wonder as to when the Groovies' back catalog will be remixed/remastered, but that is another discussion entirely...)
I do have to make note of the appropriately fab cover art for Fantastic Plastic, which was created by head Groovie Cyril Jordan -- an accomplished professional artist himself who has drawn covers for numerous Groovies releases -- in tribute to the late great Jack Davis of Mad Magazine fame. Davis also created many iconic album covers in the 50s and 60s and beyond for a multitude of artists (heck, he even did one for Adrian Belew's fine power-pop band The Bears in the late '80s!). Davis passed away last year (at age 91! RIP) so Jordan decided do his own Jack Davis flavored cover artwork in tribute to the late 50s novelty album Monster Rally. It is really a beautiful, fun and touching homage once you understand the back story! Even the label on the CD pays homage to a legendary pop record company, Laurie Records, home for everyone from Dion & The Belmonts to The Music Explosion. This attention to detail adds an extra layer of fun to the whole groovy Groovies package, for sure.
Fantastic Plastic will be out in September so keep an eye out for it (you can pre-order it by clicking on the album title at the beginning of this review -- that link will take you to Amazon.com). The vinyl version was not available at review time but as soon as that comes in we will be sure to do an update for you audiophile fans of all things power pop and rock 'n roll.
The Flamin' Groovies are on tour, so look for them in a town near you. Catch 'em while you can! It is a blessing to not only have the Flamin' Groovies back on stage performing before audiences all over the planet but also putting out fine new records worthy of their history. In these crazy times we live in it is good to know that life-affirming Flamin' Groovies' music magic can still happen.