Flamin’ Groovies – Fantastic Plastic (Sonic Kicks/Severn) review

Grizzled power pop veterans return to remind us what a killer rock record sounds like

Roots rock revivalists? Power pop purists? The Flamin’ Groovies have been both during their long career that stretches back to the late Sixties.

Longtime guitarist/vocalist Cyril Jordan teamed once again with vocalist/guitarist Chris Wilson, reuniting the frontline that produced such great albums as Shake Some Action and Flamin’ Groovies Now, convening  for their first new studio long-player since 1979, called Fantastic Plastic.

The album opens with the churning rocker “What the Hell’s Goin’ On,” which features fabulously gritty vocals from Wilson, and a guitar riff reminiscent of Neil Young’s “Don’t Cry No Tears.” That’s followed by the excellent power pop of “End of the World,” which sparkles with the same drive as the band’s most famous song, “Shake Some Action.”

“Let Me Rock” takes the familiar Merseybeat sound and adds some serious muscle (just dig those “sha la” background vocals), before giving way to a trippy guitar solo. There’s some great harmonies on the jangly “She Loves Me.”

The album is comprised of ten Groovies’ originals, coupled with a pair of intriguing covers – “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” a lost Beau Brummels’ track with haunting harmonies, and a rocked up version of “I Want You Bad,” from NRBQ.

In a way, Fantastic Plastic is the perfect Flamin’ Groovies record – a culmination of everything that came before it. Fans of the Shake Some Action, late-Seventies’ era will have plenty of power pop nuggets, like “End of the World,” and “Fallen Star” to dig in to. But honestly, the band hasn’t rocked this hard since the Roy Loney, Teenage Head days. The blistering “Just Like a Hurricane,” which contains some tasty slide guitar, is just one example of their renewed fury.

There’s even an instrumental, “I’d Rather Spend My Time With You,” which could be an outtake from the Tony Sheridan-era Beatles. The album closes with “Cryin’ Shame,” which hints at the opening riff to the Byrds’ take on “Mr. Tambourine Man.”

Everything about this release is cool – from the earthy production, to the Mad Magazine-inspired cover art, to the back cover, which successfully mimics the back LP jacket of Meet the Beatles. Even the CD label looks like the old Laurie Records’ logo.

At a time when finding a decent rock record is like trying to get someone to look up from their smartphone and actually have a conversation, the Flamin’ Groovies come roaring back, in case you forgot what a great,  straight-ahead rock n’ roll album sounds like. —Tony Peters