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Album Review

Flipper were always something of an anomaly during their initial 1979-1987 lifespan; they were clearly punk but they weren't fast, they were hardcore without bearing any musical resemblance to the bands lionized in Maximumrocknroll, and they were cynical while maintaining a curious sense of humor and flashes of idealism. When Flipper reunited in 1991 — four years after the death of bassist and songwriter Will Shatter and not long before Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic began name-checking Flipper as a key creative inspiration — it seemed like the sort of thing that Flipper wouldn't do, because even if it made good commercial sense to bring their music to a new audience, Flipper never did what made sense to anyone else. Flipper's 1993 reunion album, American Grafishy, was a severe disappointment, and the band quietly faded away, another thing foreign to this bunch of noisy troublemakers. So why would Flipper try again in 2009? There's no good reason for this to happen, which may be why the second Flipper reunion is significantly more satisfying than the first. Love was recorded with original members Bruce Loose on vocals, Ted Falconi on guitar, and Steve DePace on drums, while former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic stands in for Shatter. Given Novoselic's status as a celebrity fan, one has reason to be wary about his presence in the band, but he generates a thick, roiling bottom end that serves this music well, bending his style to the band rather than the other members bowing to him. Novoselic does inject a new energy into the group; while Flipper's classic work had a habit of creatively meandering, the songs on Love roll out with a more deliberate momentum, though "Old Graves" and "Only One Answer" still ooze with the same gravitational pull they summoned on Generic or Gone Fishin'. From a lyrical standpoint, most of Love doesn't have the same heft as Flipper's classic songs, but musically this is certainly of a piece with their best work — Falconi's shards of sound are as eloquent as ever, Novoselic and DePace are as strong a rhythm section as Flipper has ever had, and Loose's ranting is sharply focused and passionate. It's hard to say if Flipper Version 3.0 can last (since the album's release, Novoselic has left the group, and Rachel Thoele of Frightwig has taken over on bass), but Love demonstrates this band has a valid reason to keep making its glorious racket — Flipper are still better at it than anyone who has followed their twisted path.


Formed: 1978 in San Francisco, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

They came, they saw, and they conquered -- sort of. Never topping the charts, nor possessing a huge following, San Francisco's Flipper, even in the '90s alt-rock sweepstakes, would still be considered a fringe act. But, in 1982, they were the toast of rock critics across the country with their post-hardcore punk masterpiece "Sex Bomb." Clocking in at over seven minutes, possessing one riff played over and over (and sloppier and sloppier), with vocalist Will Shatter screaming rather than singing (total...
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Love, Flipper
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