The Flesh are another neo-wavo quasi-dance band like the Rapture and Franz Ferdinand: white guitarist with the fidgets, tuneful singer who wavers between stiffness and hysteria, rhythm section that forces the beat, keyboards that swish. On their Sweet Defeat EP they play ultra-synth sounds for the 1980 cheese-food effect, except on the first track where they play the synthy cheese lines on a real organ for the 1966 organic effect.
What’s distinctive about the Flesh is that, though they’re a song band as much as a groove band, they put holes in the groove à la hip-hop or dancehall, for a circular motion where the rhythm threatens to revolve the music around its own axis rather than push the song forward. The circularity is helped by the guitarist’s tendency to throw grenades rather than take solos, and the drummer’s occasional dub smurds (backward drums).
Along with the hole in their beat there’s the hole in their heart. The basic attitude is the glammy romanticism of pretty white boys from drama school who want to impale themselves on their unrequited love for you (especially if you are brilliant, doom-laden, and gorgeous). “I just want to be the one you’re tearing apart.” Glam hip-hop—a potentially new social arena. And the Flesh open up formal opportunities: They cop their first riff from Eminem’s “Under the Influence” but go on to develop song-type chord changes from it. So if anyone’s listening, the Flesh could teach song bands how to put hip-hop into their sound, and inspire a hip-hopper or two to go songlike in some direction other than r&b.
The Flesh play the Bowery Ballroom September 8.