Listening to Firetower is almost like listening to an entirely different band than the Flesh circa 2004. Just three years passed since their last album, but role adjustments occurred during that time, which (aside from new drummer Peter Angevine) ultimately turned keyboardist/backing vocalist Gabriella Zappia into the main attraction. She doesn't just pop up every now and again to provide contrast to Nat Halpern's snotty yowling; roles have been flipped so now you barely even hear Halpern at all, and the focus lies on Zappia's near-Chrissie Hynde vocals. The quirky, almost hedonistic nature of past songs (along with the vague hip-hop underpinnings) has slipped out of view right along with the more unruly Halpern, but that's not to say the reconfigured band is bad, they're just different -- more normal. It's still the same sexy cool, probing basslines, and stylish scenester cred sharpening the edges of the band's synth-infused indie rock hooks, but Firetower is calmer and much more collected. "The Truant" and the title track make no bones that dramatics are still key -- the latter song especially standing out with its pulsing mix mash of creepy keyboards and classy violins -- but there's just a feeling that this is all too levelheaded, and most songs would serve better to stroll along in shadows (see "Justice") than throw any sort of banging house party. The Flesh definitely bring late-night grooves with a nice mischievous bite, which, yes, makes for a good time. But that good time is only achieved this album through songs much less distinctive than earlier work, and unfortunately, the rest of the New York hipster scene as well. A fine album, but still slightly unsatisfying all the same.
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AllMusic Review by Corey Apar