Alex Chilton

Like Flies on Sherbert

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In most cases, adding in an unrelated EP, a second unrelated three-song EP, and a couple of random live tracks to an artist's album would make for a disorganized and confusing set, but Alex Chilton's 1979 album Like Flies on Sherbert was already a chaotic mess by most people's standards in the first place, so adding in the Feudalist Tarts EP from 1985 and the three songs from 1986's No Sex 12" EP from 1986 plus live versions of "The Letter" and "No Sex" simply expands the chaos to something closer to epic proportions. In retrospect, Flies isn't quite the car wreck it once appeared to be, and this two-disc package from Last Call has a strange coherence to it, full of loose, ragged deconstructive noise experiments, gutbucket R&B, and deliberately torpedoed pop and country songs. All of this is a far cry from the impressive power pop of Big Star, to be sure, but Flies and its various trailing EPs still seem to have a sense of purpose, even if that sense may have only been clear to Chilton. If love of Chilton's Big Star work brings you to this, well, be prepared to be shocked, but give it all a second listen. Songs like "My Rival" and its mirror cousin, "Like Flies on Sherbert," have fascinatingly bristling junkyard exteriors that mask a powerfully inverted pop sense, while tracks like "Boogie Shoes" and "Lost My Job" have a refreshing country-R&B shuffle feel, and "No Sex" may well be the most direct and honest song about sex in the postmodern world ever recorded. None of this is pop music trying to get over -- which is what one is used to -- but is instead pop music trying to get away from any perceived boundaries. What photo best captures the look and feel of the aftermath of a huge blowout party, one that is clear, in focus, and perfectly posed, or one that is blurred at the edges, tilted off axis, and has no obvious center point? The party's over, Chilton seems to be saying, and I don't have to look pretty anymore.

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