(photo by Autumn Spadaro Cali, l-r : Ussery, Steen, Vandever)
Flesh Lights – ‘Free Yourself’ (12XU 069-1) In Stores November 4.
Guitarist/vocalist Max Vandever and cousin Elissa Ussery (drums/vocals) migrated from San Antonio and began their assault on Austin’s live music dumps in 2008 playing as a duo under ill-advised names including but not limited to Candle Shop & The Psychic Reader, Dead Ledger and Carousel Images. After poaching bassist/vocalist Jeremy Steen from an early lineup of The Gospel Truth, the newly dubbed Flesh Lights (this name being approved by a focus group — A PERVERTED FOCUS GROUP), the trio quickly became a fixture on whatever you-got-songs-in-my-punk / you-got-punk-in-my-songs circuit that began to coalesce around the alleged live music capital. A pile of records soon followed ; 7”’s for Twistworthy and Super Secret, a killer debut album for the former imprint in the form of 2012’s ‘Muscle Pop’, this past summer’s “No Longer” single, etc. There’s also a 2013 national tour at the behest of The Hive which briefly elevated The Flesh Lights from subterranean spots to the sort of rooms that have bouncers who lift weights, but feel free to consider that an aberration (until The Hives come back, HINT HINT)
Pretty early on, this trio established themselves as being songcraft devotees without much self-consciousness (and that’s not meant to be an allusion to Steen’s brief projectile vomiting streak). And while those of us who bought ‘Muscle Pop’ consider it a bona fide classic, LP #2, ‘Free Yourself’ functions as so much more than a sequel ; the band claim they told producer Evan Kleinecke to make it sound like ‘Heaven Tonight’, but they could’ve thrown in the Exploding Hearts, Dictators, Only Ones or Teenage Fanclub while they were at it. Fortunately, they didn’t — he’s being paid by the hour.
I could go on about Vandever’s ridiculous development as a guitarist, about how following this band onstage is a great way to look super feeble, but I trust a good looking, super intelligent person like yourself to eventually figure it out. Because I hate hyperbole with every bone in my body (in yours, too!), I’m dead fucking serious when I say the best things about living in America right now are universal health care, the advent of driverless automobiles and the Flesh Lights. Not necessarily in that order.