Music

Flamin' Groovies: Fantastic Plastic

Photo Alain Cazenave

Reuniting the classic Groovies front line of Cyril Jordan and Chris Wilson for the first time in nearly 40 years, Fantastic Plastic shows the duo and the band to have lost nary a step in the intervening decades.


Flamin’ Groovies

Fantastic Plastic

Label: Severn Records
US Release Date: 2017-09-22
UK Release Date: 2017-09-22

The quintessential cult act, the members of Flamin' Groovies have remained deliberately and steadfastly out of step with the times. From their late '60s roots in psychedelic San Francisco where they played their own brand of first-generation rock and roll to their British Invasion worshipping of the late '70s that produced their most recognizable “hit" in “Shake Some Action", Flamin' Groovies have never been ones to go with the proverbial flow and make music aimed at a more commercial market. This has both helped and hindered them. Where their music could just as easily have been hugely successful if issued at a slightly different time, their influence and musical stick-to-itiveness has played a major role in liberating younger artists from adhering to prevailing trends and musical fads and instead sticking to their guns and powering straight ahead with their own singular artistic vision, corporate suits be damned.


It's an attitude they've retained throughout their career and through each iteration: The early rock and roll years; British Invasion later years; and now, for their first album since 1993's Rock Juice, the all new Fantastic Plastic, they return with an amalgamation of the two. And by doing so, they've managed a fine distillation of the band's essence in all its forms, despite the group on record here being something of an augmented incarnation of the group's Shake Some Action-era lineup. (It's not for nothing that the back of the album proclaims, “Their all new album of all new hits!") Vocalist and guitarist – and avowed Anglophile – Chris Wilson returns to the fold some 37 years after he originally parted ways with the group (this after having replaced the more rock and roll-minded Roy Loney), while Groovies mainstay and founder Cyril Jordan and longtime bassist George Alexander round out the core of the “original" lineup.

Sporting a Cyril Jordan original sleeve in the style of Mad magazine's Jack Davis, Fantastic Plastic is a decided throwback to an earlier era from the cover on down. Opening track “What the Hell's Goin' On" features an opening guitar riff not too terribly far removed from “Shake Some Action" before settling into a mid-'70s, Tom Petty-esque rock groove. It's a fine opening statement and indicative of much of what is to come: Wilson's voice having settled into more of a growl better suited to the group's more rocking tendencies; the twin guitars of Jordan and Wilson snaking their way in and around one another; and Alexander and newcomer Victor Penalosa (drums) providing a rock-solid, workmanlike rhythmic foundation. A no fuss, no muss approach, it's a lean stripped down rocker that feels as timeless as the group's best efforts.

Meanwhile, “End of the World" sounds like a lost Byrds tracks, Jordan and Wilson's vocals coming together in glorious mid-'60s-styled harmonies atop a jangling heap of guitars. The appropriately-titled “Let Me Rock" does just that, with its Who-styled vocals and maximum R&B aping the sound and feel of “Won't Get Fooled Again" replete with a call to arms for aging rock and rollers everywhere. "It's been so long/ Since you played my songs / You took my soul/ But you won't take my rock and roll!," Wilson barks over the closing chorus, living and breathing each lyric.

Showing their affinity for the mid-'60s to have abated none, Fantastic Plastic features a cover of the Beau Brummels' “Don't Talk to Strangers" as well as the often similarly-minded NRBQ's “I Want You Bad". But the most impressive aspect of Fantastic Plastic is the strength of the Wilson/Jordan songwriting team. Having lost nary a step since their late '70s heyday, the pair churn out a solid set of quality originals that remain true to the Flamin' Groovies tradition while never sounding forced or pastiche. Indeed, it's nice to hear a group return in such solid form after so many years away. Fantastic Plastic may not be the best Groovies album – that's a debatable honor I'll refrain from engaging in here, but let's just say the first incarnation of the band holds a special place in this reviewer's heart – but it's still nothing short of a damn good slab of quality rock and roll.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Reading Pandemics

Pandemic, Hope, Defiance, and Protest in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Shakespeare's well known romantic tale Romeo and Juliet, written during a pandemic, has a surprisingly hopeful message about defiance and protest.

Film

A Family Visit Turns to Guerrilla Warfare in 'The Truth'

Catherine Deneuve plays an imperious but fading actress who can't stop being cruel to the people around her in Hirokazu Koreeda's secrets- and betrayal-packed melodrama, The Truth.

Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

'Avengers: Endgame' Faces the Other Side of Loss

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our pandemic grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.