FLAMES, THE: Self-titled: CD

Sep 20, 2017

The Flames’ main man Michael J. Richards made a band and shopped his record around in the early ‘80s. In 2017, John Gentile found a copy of The Flames LP and attempted to pin down an un-Googleable situation: a generic band name and a guy with the same name as a notorious sitcom star. It seems Richards produced this record in Vancouver, lost his band, and used the LP as a demo when he moved to New York, handing it around to record labels and some friends. So copies are floating around. All of this is so appealing to me; I’d rather skip the part where I comment on the music. There’s nothing wrong with it, there’s just too little bite in it for me. These songs may have rocked hard live, but the recordings lose something in the attack that just doesn’t seem recoverable. Richard’s writing has some depth—like “You Always Survive”—where a drawling, flamenco strum of the guitar gives a nice Jim Carroll causality to serious subject matter. On the other side of the coin, “Stabbed to Death” loses something in causal delivery and an upbeat keyboard line. The keyboard sound is unfortunate overall. There are some clever guitar lines that never get off the ground. The better guitar work is overshadowed by the production in general. The liner notes make a lot of the songwriting having cross-genre sensibilities. Maybe there’s something to that. I could see this being an enjoyable album on some level, but it doesn’t quite rise to the level of being a lost punk or power pop classic for me. I really dig the story and the heart that went into the project. –Billups Allen (Narmer)