On their last few CDs, these NYC veterans sounded a little too world-weary to conjure the shamanistic power of their classic early-’80s party albums. But Do You Swing? marks a fine return to form and should go a long way toward re-establishing the debonair duo of singer Peter Zaremba and guitarist Keith Streng as the diplomats of American garage rock.
Recorded with Rick Miller from Southern Culture on the Skids, the 13-song CD goes back to the basics of what fueled the Fleshtones in the first pace: the gritty bounce of "Double Dipper" is a 21st-century rewrite of "Louie Louie"; and the simple, exuberant "One Four Five" is nothing less than a garage-rock how-to set to a propulsive backbeat. The band stay close to home on "Destination Greenpoint," a sentimental number about their favorite Brooklyn neighborhood. But Zaremba seems to be on some kind of quasi-spiritual trip in "Are You Ready for the Mountain?", which is nonetheless grounded in revved-up Lyres-style retro-rock. All the Fleshtones’ classic touchstones are here, from Streng’s psychedelicized tremolo guitar chords to Zaremba’s frantic maracas and harmonica blasts. The only real misstep is a cover of Led Zep’s "Communication Breakdown" — after all, back in the day, the Fleshtones were offering a raw, sweaty, party-hearty ’60s-inspired alternative to a rock radio that was still stuck in the overblown ’70s.
(The Fleshtones headline the Middle East this Sunday, May 18. Call 617-864-EAST.)