Bands working in the “balls out” area of modern day r ‘n’ r by and large have trouble avoiding the twin pitfalls of being (a) too white-belt or (b) too by-the-numbers garage. Oakland, California punk group The Time Flys navigate the situation by going way weird, not in any really obvious way, just so that each song on their Fly album resonates with something slightly off-kilter. Plenty of ’77 buzz-saw guitar and glam moves are employed, but they’re rendered in a context that could be seen as truly psychedelic. Similarly, the lyrics to the majority of these songs avoid narrative coherence or stuff that makes clear sense in favor of describing societal disconnect in ways that are nongeneric in the extreme; a lot of Time Flys tunes talk about sometimes imaginary antagonistic figures—dragons, Lucifer, harpies, parents, kids at school—than can be combated through various means, such as free will, singing, dirt (is my best friend). I’m referring in part to the group’s two pre-album singles here, but these themes are strongly present on this LP, along with some good Lord of the Flies/teenage caveman stuff.
The actual sound of the record—how it’s recorded in such a transparent and ragged fashion—is also surprising, and suits the songs well. Lead and group vocals are blurred into each other, and chord structures frequently burn up into total enthusiasm and coiled guitar freakouts that jump out of the mix. The overall effect is something like past rock ‘n’ roll heroes sped and weirded up and seen through an ancient-to-the-future drug haze. “In My Skool” is an in-class daydream where ’71 MC5 and ’81 Necros’s mutual dislike of high school is bonded over during free period, with “You better not turn up your Radiohead” put in to make it current. “21st Century Ape-Man” seems a sort of songwriting exercise, combining two Rolling Stones titles (or I guess “Ape Man” is the Kinks; I was thinking of “Monkey Man,” same idea), and as such, it’s immediately impressive. There’s also “Theme,” which describes the band as a rock ‘n’ roll teen gang with long hair, and says you better watch out and hide your kids ’cause they’re coming. Which are pretty dumb things to say in general, but given the rest of this album, the Time Flys have pretty much earned the right to say them.