Another more obscure album, although to my knowledge not critically acclaimed. More’s the pity.
Flick was a band started by brothers Oran and Trevor Thornton. When this album came out on Columbia Records, they were (to the best of my knowledge) around 19 and 15 years old. As with Ash’s 1977, the songwriting at such a young age blows my mind. I guess it’s pure prejudice. Why shouldn’t a teenager be able to write a cracking tune? Well. Prejudice, or maybe jealousy?
Anyway, enough of that. The album. Intriguing before you’ve even started the music, from the artwork (an almost lurid green haze of the sky above a car wrapped around a railroad crossing sign, not forgetting a flaming egg on the reverse), the obscure title, a beguiling EPK video1 (on some versions of the CD, at least) and then you press play and there’s the immediate headrush of the opener Freezer Burnt.
As it goes, Freezer Burnt is a contender for one of my favourite songs of all time (I’m never going to pick one though). It has a gorgeous, crunchy, discordant riff with a sirening bass line, compelling vocals and one of those choruses that make you feel like they didn’t sing it enough times in the song.
The rest of the album wanders around dreamy rock pop (Pink Boo, High on You, The End), slow-burning anthems (Maybe Someday, Some Other Day, Wishing Well), and indie-rock goodness (There You Go, Drag, Anthem). If you were being churlish I suppose you could bemoan the lack of any up-tempo stormers and the slightly meandering nature of the album. But for me neither of these are a problem because I think it’s a great bunch of songs. Strong melodies and well constructed.
The production is also compelling. It fizzes and sparks with effects, multiple guitar layers, a sprinkling of psychedelic touches, judicious use of strings and even a plane and a moped at a couple of points. I’ve made it sound crowded, but it’s not. They knew when to take a breather before diving back in. I also like the strange little keyboard interlude song after Electric Pear. Would have worked well as a side 1 closer, but as far as I’m aware this was never released on vinyl.
I’m not usually good with comparing bands and detecting influences, but I’d say there’s a Radiohead edge in here (I’ve seen this comparison a few times) – for me it’s most pronounced in The End, which for some reason makes me think of Exit Music. Oran does an amazing job of creating a lush atmosphere with the electric guitars, and there are some definite Greenwood (surely the king of atmospheric electric guitar?) overtones at times. There are also some Beatlesesque moments, in particular the flourishes in the verses of There You Go. Surprisingly (given how much Trevor looked like Marc Bolan at the time) I don’t get much of a T.Rex vibe, although the vocals have a similar feel in places. I don’t think they’re as affected as Bolan’s though.
At first glance the lyrics don’t necessarily grab you. The verses of Freezer Burnt certainly wouldn’t win prizes (“You I won’t show / Yeah you know / Doesn’t make it easy on me now / Yeah you know”). But if you dig deeper there is some lovely imagery. Some of it right there on the surface: “If I wait too long / Then I’m all freezer burnt”, some of it a bit deeper: “I wish that I could call / I’m standing with my face against the wall / I believe but it’s not sinking in / I believe but how could you forget it?”, and some of it is just plain obscure: “Come breath in the electric air / ‘Cause we are the electric pear”. None of it is super wordy or complicated, and you do sometimes get the impression that words were just chosen to fit the melody/song, but I don’t think any of this is a negative (good thing too, I do it a fair bit). Pretty sure no-one said a good song can’t be simple. Or if they did, I never heard them say it.
Some albums you listened to as a teenager you fall out of love with over the years, but I’ve never fallen out of love with The Perfect Kellulight. It still sounds fantastic nearly 22 years later. Unfortunately Flick didn’t do much else. There was a second album, Iron Bottom Sound, which is weirdly hard to get hold of, and that was about it. More recently (although still three years ago2) the Thornton brothers resurfaced with a five song EP under the band name and EP title Whirling Wheel. Both Iron Bottom Sound and Whirling Wheel reassure me that the great songwriting wasn’t a one-off, but I’d love to hear even more of it.
1 https://youtu.be/BYssAdli6oU N.B. The band name “Flick” doesn’t lend itself well to being written in flames.
2 Phew, we were nearly into new music territory there.