The Flaming Stars

A Walk on the Wired Side

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For those who find words like "maturity" and "sophistication" to be despicable anathemas, fear not -- the beloved Flaming Stars are still every bit the trashy sleaze & roll band that they ever were. But there is something slightly different about a A Walk on the Wired Side, even compared to 1999's wonderful Pathway -- it's better. Head Flaming Star Max Decharne is guiding the band to a more singular place, where the band's vision seems to borrow less from antecedents ('60s garage rock, Nick Cave, Gallon Drunk) and now occupies its own slice of whiskey-besotted heaven. Perhaps part of the reason is that Decharne is now allowing his bandmates more of a stake in the songwriting; guitarist Mark Hosking is responsible for half of the Eastern-tinged, pummeling rocker "Over and Done" as well as the shadowy, grim ballad "Out of the Past," and guitarist Huck Whitney lends a hand with the commanding, surf-in-hell opener "Right Face Right Time." Almost every song is a stunner, and not surprisingly, the band sounds more relaxed than ever; there is an undeniable ease, grace, and effortlessness to their music. But as they haven't changed their overall aesthetic -- this is dirty, live-in-the-studio rock & roll, after all -- it's not like the passing of time has dulled their more aggressive instincts. The full-throttle instrumental "Grabber George" is a clear testament to that. Decharne is still very much in charge, and the way he careens from post-punk anthems ("You Don't Always Want What You Get") to sexy, sultry numbers ("Absent Without Leave," "She Says She Says"), one would think he's composing music for a yet-to-be-made film. Speaking of movies, if the Flaming Stars keep this up, it's only a matter of time before they join their brothers the Bad Seeds and Tindersticks in providing songs and scores for smart independent films.

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