The Flaming Stars

The Six John Peel Sessions

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A tough-as-nails testament to the talent and panache of the Flaming Stars. These five stylish, smart, and suavely decadent Brits plow through their tunes with the same confidence they bring to every album and stage show. In fact, there isn't much difference between this album -- recorded live in the BBC studios in various sessions between 1995 and 1999 -- and their studio efforts; the Stars are a live band in every sense of the word, so whether they're recording for radio luminary John Peel or entrenched in London's Pathway studio (where the album of the same name was produced), they always manage to deliver quality songs and volatile, visceral performances. Over the course of this double disc -- a whopping 27 songs -- the Flaming Stars offer the listener insane surf rock ("Like Trash"), sweetly melodic mid-tempo pop songs ("Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye"), bone-chilling instrumentals ("Blood Money"), boozy ballads (the aptly named "3 am on the Bar Room Floor"), and best of all, twisted post-punk/garage numbers that manage to combine all of the above into a completely original stew ("Forget My Name," "Better Than That," "Just How It Feels"). The musicians are in fine form throughout: bassist Paul Dempsey does a wonderful job of holding everything together, allowing drummer Joe Whitney opportunities to deliver hypnotic tribal beats or just plain go crazy on this kit. And the guitarists -- Mark Hosking, Huck Whitney, and short-term member Johnny Johnston -- are top-notch players, crashing through the speakers with warped feedback blasts, trading off tasty, abbreviated blues licks, or providing pithy lead lines over pretty piano numbers. Singer/keyboardist Max Decharne delivers intelligent, wry lyrics about desperation, doomed and dangerous romance, and the harsh realities encountered in dirty cities. Add to the group's own material two breakneck covers -- one of them a smokin' take on Buzzcocks' "What Do I Get?" -- and it's a wonderful overview of the Flaming Stars' '90s oeuvre.

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