The Flesh Eaters
I Used to be Pretty
I Used to Be Pretty feels like a college reunion. Well I was in college when I picked up the Flesh Eaters masterpiece, Minute to Pray, A Second to Die. On that record, Chris Desjardins, – Chris D on the punk rock scene, called up a bunch of his friends to help out on the record. It was a glorious alignment of the cosmos: D. J. Bonebrake and John Doe from X, Dave Alvin and Bill Bateman from the Blasters and sax player Steve Berlin who was in the Plugz back then (and now is part of Los Lobos) joined Chris in the studio to record a stunning collection of art punk hoodoo. It was a collaboration that couldn’t last since everyone had other commitments. There were other Flesh Eaters records that had good songs, but couldn’t match the magic of the “all star” lineup.
In 2006, that lineup got back together for the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in England. That planted the seeds for what eventually became I Used to Be Pretty. When the band played their reunion gigs, they reinvigorated songs this line up never played before. “Miss Muerte” comes on with pounding rhythms and Alvin giving us his best metal lead guitar riffs. “The Youngest Profession” is a psychotic blues with Chris D sounding like he’s fighting for his life and Alvin and Berlin howling like demons on the breaks. “My Life to Live” is driven by John Doe’s throbbing bass line and accented by Bonebrake’s marimba fills. It’s great to hear these guys breathing fire on these songs.
Speaking of breathing fire, the Flesh Eaters wring all the darkness and poison out of the classic Fleetwood Mac tune, “The Green Manalishi”. They take the blues number into the swamp to throw down with Papa Legba and Frank Zappa’s ghost. They completely re-imagine the song, amplifying the paranoia and terror that was always there in Peter Green’s tortured mind. The Sonics tune, “Cinderella” gets a similar make over. The Gun Club tune “She’s Like Heroin to Me” come across as the scariest love song ever written.
The album is book-ended by the only totally new songs. “Black Temptation” sets the mood, conjuring the feeling of a back ally Shaman casting spells in the back of a Tijuana grind club. “Ghost Cave Lament” closes the show with a 13 minute slow burn inspired by a piece by flamenco guitarist Manitas de Plata. The song builds to a creepy climax with marimba and sax threading around Desjardins’ anguished voice. The song builds slowly and gets weirder as it goes. It’s almost like the killer on the road from the End is trying to communicate with us from the deepest recesses of hell. Julie Christensen’s wordless vocals near the end sound like a trapped and anguished soul. Is she the killer’s prey still held captive in the underworld?
It’s good to hear this edition of the Flesh Eaters. The recording quality is so much better than on Minute to Pray, A Second to Die. The guys backing Chris D are still playing like there is no tomorrow. It’s worth revisiting the past when there are things left undone and you still have the gris gris to make it burn.