by Colin Smith (@colinsaburo)
Rock ’n’ roll isn’t dead as long as a band like Flesh Panthers is around. The Chicago garage rock band grew from its roots in the DIY scene. One of the members even ran a venue out of his basement. They sound gritty, raucous, and unpredictable, much like the bar venues that helped mushroom bands like them from their dimly-lit and beer-battered stages.
The band’s new full-length record, Holy Roller, reveals a more relaxed and reflective side. They’re still channeling the Stones, but this time around it’s much more like the country blues of the band’s late-60s era. While they stay true to their rebellious rock roots, they’ve tempered with a tinge of wistfulness — as if their living room guitars drank too much wine.
Whereas the frontman Ryan Zombotron sang in 2015, “I just wanna stay high forever,” now he’s reflecting back on his youth. On “I Wish I Woulda’ Known,” he sings “What can you do, 19 and blue / except for find some truth in 100 proof.” Songs like “Sway” sound like the end of the night when you’re taking the bus back. Imageries of rock ’n’ roll mythology line this record — the train cars, the booze, the lost loves, and finding at least glimpses of “the light” — but the record doesn’t sound dusty or too vintage, thanks to the band’s earnestness.
Much like how other Chicago rock veterans have been tempered in the past few years, like Twin Peaks with their 2016 release Down in Heaven or former members of Smith Westerns going full twang with Whitney, Flesh Panthers went from chugging beer and playing power chords to sipping and strumming over the kitchen table instead. Holy Roller sounds like rock music when it’s made with as much blood and tears as it was made with beer sweat.
Listen to the album today on Post-Trash. It’ll be officially available elsewhere tomorrow, Friday, May 24.