When punk four-piece Flesh Panthers dropped their first two releases last year—a seven-inch on Tall Pat and a self-titled cassette on Dumpster Tapes—they sounded like a group of kids looking for the kind of fun that's hard to tell from trouble. And in case the ragtag, deranged shrieks and squeals of the band's guitars didn't make it obvious enough, front man Ryan Zombotron doubled down with his lyrics: on "Bleed Black Leather" from Flesh Panthers, he half screams, "I just wanna stay high forever."
Zombotron says those recordings are faithful to Flesh Panthers' anything-can-happen live sets, but that for their full-length debut the band wanted to try something different. They went into the studio intending to mess with their sound, and they had a field day with noise boxes and the tape head of an old reel-to-reel player, among other gadgets. NGC 2632 puts a psychedelic spin on their messy punk punches: the woozy "Teethe" cleans up some of the band's sonic muck and dials down the pace, but keeps their noisy euphoria intact.
Zombotron wrote the new album's lyrics by drawing inspiration from a list of about 100 words and phrases—"flies," "city living," and "linear energy," to name a few. "There's an insect theme in the album, but there's also a mysticism that has to do with the planets and stars and space," he says. Those themes inspired the album's title, which is an astronomical-catalog designation for the Beehive Cluster in the constellation Cancer (the ancient Chinese called it "Exhalation of Corpses"). Zombotron hopes NGC 2632 is the first of many albums for Flesh Panthers: "Hopefully I can keep on putting out records and people won't tell me to shut up."
The songs of Flesh Panthers' NGC 2632 swagger and sneer with unrelenting attitude, but rather than evoking anger and alienation, it's the kind of attitude that says, "We're here, we're beautiful, we're going to go wild and have another big ol' party!" This fuzzed-out record rocks and reels, reminiscent of a mid-July major rager full of all your favorite weirdos.
Or, maybe it sounds the way a crazed rock 'n' roller going nowhere fast on a Friday night looks, a zonked-out knucklehead looking for excitement in any one of the world's glowing party metropolises: inappropriately long hair, skin-tight jeans, an I-don't-care demeanor.
"teethe," a slow bruiser, struts with a noisy jangle and a leering stare. Mid-tempo stompers "elevator girls" and "47 Eyeballs" allow a glimmering guitar lead to weave through the cocky snarl of vocals. Rippers "ede M'" and "clampa" go hog wild, barreling recklessly toward a fuzz solo and catchy hooks.
While angst and violence are present in the earliest Flesh Panthers recordings, over the years the band has evolved into another animal entirely, veering into the good-time party band territory of raucous house shows and bouncy beer-soaked nights at Cole's, crafting songs dipping into an array of influences, from old-fashioned punk and garage to the many-faceted sounds of rock 'n' roll, R&B and blues of the '50s and '60s.
NGC 2632 further confirms what anybody who's seen the group live lately already knows: Flesh Panthers have found their voice, amalgamating a myriad of influences into high-powered rock 'n' roll mayhem that stands out as their unique offering to the colorful Chicago scene.
-- Victim of Time
"Good-time punks, Flesh Panthers unapologetically bust down your front door with their new album, N G C 2632. At first listen, the 12 tracks embody a New York Dolls’ draw and swagger that’s much more glam than what came across on the band’s previous releases. These tracks are fully-fleshed, leaving a heightened ringing in your ears and putting a relentless stomp in your boots."
--Local Loop Press