- 23 Apr 04
At first, you think they’re merely terrible. Then your man starts singing, and it’s at this point you start examining the record sleeve for evidence that the whole thing’s some kind of a joke.
At first, you think they’re merely terrible. Then your man starts singing, and it’s at this point you start examining the record sleeve for evidence that the whole thing’s some kind of a joke. The Flash Express are an exceptionally bad blues-rock bar band: all baby’s-first-blues-scale basslines and skidding 200-mile-an-hour riffola (if you fly by quick enough, they can’t see how shoddy the workmanship is) – but it’s when the words and vocal mannerisms arrive in earnest that we see that what we have here is so much weirder than just a terrible band: it’s a shambling Frankenstein monster of every rock cliché you’ve ever heard of, come to incredible, terrifying life.
As far as accidental pastiche goes, it’s unbelievably thorough: not a single dead rock horse is left unflogged. Ersatz Southern accent? Check. Occasional tonsil-shattering hollering? Check. Standard-issue rock’n’roll-cliché phraseology straight out of Magnetic Poetry, Rock School Edition, check (sample phrases: ‘subway train’; ‘we got the beat’; ‘you’re lookin’ good, you’re lookin’ so fine’ and, it goes quite without saying, ‘one two three four’). Use of expletives to indicate personal ferociousness? Check (songs tend to address unnamed motherfuckers). Disappointingly, a glance at the band’s photograph confirms that the Express are indeed three human males from Hollywood, and not alien scientists from planet Zorp who formed a band after years of studying ‘garage’ ‘rock’ ‘music’ by listening to 32nd-generation John Spencer Blues Explosion bootlegs and reading badly translated copies of Sounds.
It’s not that it’s even unremittingly unlistenable (a thumbs-in-overalls rockabilly cover of Grandmaster Flash’s ‘The Message’ isn’t the worst): it’s just that it’s hard to enjoy the supposed rocktasticness over 38 straight minutes of dead words and ripped off ideas flying at you like bugs against a windshield. Or, to keep to the monster-movie parlance, all the bits are recognisable and seem to be in working order, but you can’t stop staring at the bolts.