The Fleshtones

Speed Connection II - The Final Chapter

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There's a difference between being a great band and making great records, and that's the rub that's long dogged the Fleshtones; they're smart, funny, and a great live act, but they haven't always had the best of luck in the studio, where their best qualities often evaporate in overly sterile conditions. Speed Connection II, recorded live in front of a well-oiled crowd in Paris, doesn't perfectly capture the charm and wild energy of their stage show, but it comes close enough to be one of their most purely enjoyable albums -- when the band starts shouting out "5! 10! 15! 20!" like it's the Rosetta Stone, as Bill Milhizer's drums stomp out the beat and Jan Pakulski's bass makes with the fuzz in the opening seconds of "Hide and Seek," you know you're hearing the Fleshtones the way they were meant to be heard. You get a "Kingsmen Like Medley" alongside one of the greatest fake Kingsmen tunes of all time ("Return to the Haunted House," which, true to '60s form, appears to be a stray studio cut overdubbed with crowd noise), an "Extended Super Rock Medley" that lives up to the billing, a frat-rock classic waiting to happen in "B.Y.O.B.," and Peter Buck from R.E.M. adding extra guitar power on two songs (including the Athens boys' own "Windout"). And no matter what the songwriting credits might say, that isn't T-Bone Burnett's "When the Night Falls" they're covering, but the mod classic by the Eyes. At one point, an especially drunken fan bellows, "We haven't had enough! We want intoxication of the Fleshtones!" Peter Zaremba, cool as a cuke, responds, "We're workin' on it, baby." And you know what? By the end of the album, they just about make it. (By the way, Speed Connection II is a decidedly different album than its European counterpart, Speed Connection, and in this case you're better off with the domestic edition.)

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