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In the Flesh

Veteran garage rockers prove they can still bust the fuzzbox.


You really don't need to hear the Fleshtones' new album, Beachhead, to know what it sounds like. Like each of the veteran garage rockers' previous albums, it offers three-chord guitar riffs wrapped in two-minute blasts of feedback and electricity.

You should also know that the Fleshtones (now approaching their 30th year) are the bridge between the golden era of Nuggets garage bands from the '60s and the recent crop of shaggy-haired boys and girls, like the Strokes and the White Stripes.

"I love all those new bands," says Fleshtones singer Peter Zaremba. "I love the idea that people are creating some focus for this music."

The Fleshtones were formed by Zaremba and guitarist Keith Streng in New York at the tail end of the '70s, just as punk was making its way stateside. The group sounded little like its contemporaries. Unlike Television, Talking Heads, or even the Ramones, the Fleshtones copped their riffs and fashion sense from cult garage groups like the Seeds and Standells. "We were just four guys banging out rock and roll," says Zaremba.

By the early part of the next decade, the band was sharing a record label -- I.R.S. -- with such new-wave and post-punk biggies as R.E.M. and the Go-Go's. Unfortunately, the affiliation led to confusion. Were the Fleshtones punk? New wave? "We avoided going the U.K. punk route," says Zaremba. "We didn't have spiky hair. But people still couldn't figure us out."

Since 1982, the Fleshtones have averaged a new record every 18 months. But the frenetic Beachhead -- which barely reached the half-hour mark -- is the closest they've come to their maraca-shaking, fuzzbox-busting peak. "Our earlier records were quirkier than they needed to be," says Zaremba. "We just did what we wanted to do on this one. It's just straight-up rock and roll."

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