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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Pop-Metal From Flotsam & Jetsam

March 20, 1993|JONATHAN GOLD

Flotsam & Jetsam, a Phoenix band probably best known for having lost its bass player to Metallica a few years ago, used to be something of an art band within the context of speed-metal, basing a couple of songs on William Burroughs lyrics, syncopating a lick or two, even throwing in modal passages that weren't lifted from old Black Sabbath records.

At the Whisky on Thursday, Flotsam & Jetsam seemed reborn as a polished pop-metal outfit instead, with high, in-tune Queensryche-style vocals instead of post-Ozzy yelps, socially responsible lyrics, clean guitar riffing instead of thrash-metal churn, the technical command to really get inside of a groove. If professionalism were a rock 'n' roll virtue, these guys would be even better than Anthrax. Even the requisite double-time sections were clean and crisply performed.

But although Flotsam & Jetsam has become an astonishingly flexible, responsive band, a pleasure to listen to, in the end the show was an empty exercise. Like so many bands, in the process of becoming coherent enough to express a message, Flotsam & Jetsam seems to have forgotten just what it was they were trying to say. Still, there were a lot of air-guitar players in the audience for what was basically an industry crowd.

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