a nation of misfits: flipper, just get the vinyl
By Sound Check
July 14, 2010
Their 1993 Rick Rubin produced cash-in album American Grafishy seemed to stem from the following logic:
1. all these kids are getting rich stealing our sound
2. we like heroin
3. heroin costs money
4. let’s make an album that sounds like these kids who are trying to sound like us
5. and make money!
And their evil plot would have worked too, if it weren’t for the fact that Grafishy is kind of a shitty album (further proof for my longstanding argument that Rick Rubin has the anti-Midas touch (a more literal interpretation of the Midas story would actually give Rick a real Midas touch: everything he touches turns into a gold-plated lifeless shell of it’s former self)). It’s kind of shitty, even by Flipper’s admittedly lax standards.
Flipper turned the expectations of the hardcore scene on it’s head. Their music is designed to test the patience of their audience. For starters, their songs are slow. And long. It’s rare that a Flipper song runs shorter than four minutes, while their classic Sex Bomb clocks in around 10 minutes in some versions. But their music is not some prog-hardcore fusion. There are no elaborate solos. No tempo changes or rhythmic shifts. There are just verses and choruses. Sometimes, there are just verses.
Their unique take on punk tends to split listeners down the middle. Loved and hated in equal measure, it’s impossible to feel neutral about the band. At least in their early years. After the death of Will Shatter of a heroin overdose in 1987, the band has had a revolving door of bass players. As Bruce Loose told SF Weekly, Flipper is “like Spinal Tap, except the bass player keeps dying.” The band soldiered on after Shatter’s death releasing the mediocre American Grafishy with new bassist John Dougherty (Loose by this point had dropped the strings entirely and was now exclusively the singer).
Without the dueling vocalist dynamic, Flipper’s music lost much of the anarchic energy that defined their earlier recordings. Although some tracks stand out (Flipper Twist and Exist or Else are both wonderfully rambling), the relentless experimentation was mostly gone.
Following Novoselic’s recent departure from the band, Flipper has added former Frightwig bassist Rachel Thoele to the line-up. According to my entirely accurate statistical analysis, she will be replaced in 2014 by that weird new guy in Metallica, who in turn will be replaced in 2019 by a robot just in time for the band’s 40th anniversary tour. The ensuing album will mostly feature recordings of the original members taking a nap in the studio while their instruments feedback around them. It will be hailed as a return to form, although Pitchfork will deride their decision to allow the Basstron 3000 to sing lead on a remake of their classic track Ha Ha Ha as a “bold, but misguided decision.”
Vinyl, Digital, or Torrent: Does it matter? There’s no depth to the recordings. There’s no “full album experience.” Other than 2009’s Love none of them sound particularly good, although I do have a few Flipper 7 inches which are some of my prized possessions. But the original vinyl press for the 1986 live record Public Flipper Limited (a jab at Public Image Limited for stealing the artwork from Flipper’s 1982 Generic for PiL’s 1986 Album) is worth tracking down if only for it’s included Flipper board game. Seriously.
Get The Latest
Signup for the AFROPUNK newsletter