The Flesh Eaters: one of the great bands to crawl from the fertile urban/subterranean cracks in Los Angeles’ sunshine-and-smiles. Punk in the sense of doing what one wanted rather than trying to harness adolescent rage and Reagan-era angst (though one can find room for both in the collective’s oeuvre), Flesh Eaters has been through its share of iterations since forming in 1977, the unwavering force through being vocalist Chris Desjardins (aka Chris D.).

Among the lineups he’s assembled in that time, one has reached near mythic status. Combining forces with Dave Alvin (guitar) and Bill Bateman (drums) of the Blasters, John Doe (bass) and D.J. Bonebrake (marimba and percussion) of X as well as Steve Berlin (saxophones) from the aforementioned Blasters as well as the Plugz and Los Lobos, Desjardins took the group into the studio for the almighty 1981 set, A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die one of the most revered LPs of its era.

Because the members were scattered across a variety of projects, sustaining that lineup proved an impossibility, but the outfit’s legacy endured and now, some 38 years after that undying collection, we hold in our hands a revisiting of its power and glory. I Used to Be Pretty finds everyone in fine, fighting form, sounding as (if not more) vital than a newly-birthed band that slams and slashes unabashed fury.

Joined on five tracks by backing vocalist Julie Christensen (of Desjardins’ later band, Divine Horsemen), the group barrels through a series of tracks which reinvigorate past compositions, a handful of covers and some brand new numbers penned by Chris D. and Dave Alvin. Chief among those is the closing “Ghost Cave Lament” which summons recollections of the Doors’ classic, “The End.” A hallucinatory music exploration inspired in part by flamenco guitarist Manitas de Plata’s “Moritas Moras,” the song defies all expectations on both the musical and lyrical front, emerging as a new classic of its time.

Often, this lineup recalls/foreshadows Tin Machine (David Bowie’s late ‘80s/early ‘90s foray into heavy rock), including on “My Life To Live” and “The Youngest Profession,” sounding like a group of with plenty of anger and frustration burning in their collective hearts. One can also momentarily be forgiven for thinking that the Eaters are a 2000s post-punk unit drawn together for a quick reunion during those songs, the rage burning brighter than the screens of a million flip phones and remembrances of PBRs past.

The covers here, including “The Green Manalishi” (recorded by the Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac and, later, Judas Priest) and the 1965 Sonics’ “Cinderella” are rendered with originality and passion, suggesting that the sextet has come to claim the songs for their own. The same may be said of the Gun Club’s “She’s Like Heroin to Me,” which resonates with a sense of both the classic and the contemporary in this blistering version.

Beams of freshness emerge throughout, including on a rendition of the past Flesh Eaters number “Miss Muerte,” on which Desjardins proves that Henry Rollins may not have been the most intense or frightening vocalist of the L.A. punk scene after all. The damage incurred from that and other pieces like it here is unmistakable, and one is left with the lasting impression that the Flesh Eaters intend to scorch the earth with their sheer musicality and need for invention.

Whereas some reunited acts offer up a pale imitation of themselves, this is one that remains out for blood. I Used to Be Pretty is reminder enough that the Flesh Eaters can be counted on to rip and tear their way into our souls without apology.

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