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Classic of the Week

July 21, 1994|JON MATSUMOTO

Flipper

"Album--Generic Flipper" (1981)

Def American

Unlike its fellow punk contemporaries such as the Dead Kennedys and Millions of Dead Cops, Flipper blazed onto the early '80s underground rock scene with a moniker that was more cute than threatening. The San Francisco band clearly understood that the true punk spirit was about breaking rules rather than blindly following them.

Individualists to the core, Flipper played like no other band, and its music was anything but cute. Its droning, dissonant and often lumbering material stood in sharp contrast to the high-speed rants that dominated the punk movement of the time.

But while Flipper played at a slower tempo, the tracks on its debut disc, "Album--Generic Flipper," still manage to pack plenty of tension and visceral power. In "Ever" and the monolithic, 8 1/2-minute "(I Saw You) Shine," grinding guitars combine with dirgy bass lines and rolling drum patterns to help convey the group's generally dour world view. And with the album's cornerstone track, "The Way of the World," Flipper exhibits its penchant for serving up darkly philosophical lyrics: "There are dreams left empty and blank and legs that have ceased to walk/That's the way of the world."

"Album" is in no way a commercial venture. Most of its tracks are defined more by their abrasive, though mesmerizing grooves than any well-honed sense of melody. In addition, the vocals tend to be shouted rather than sung. The song "Life Is Cheap" is fairly typical of the album, its powerfully forbidding mood established through a corrosive and insistent instrumental attack. Somewhat less typical is the gloriously noisy "Sex Bomb"--a lengthy, uptempo song with horns, humor and one lyric ("She's a sex bomb baby, yeah") that's repeated over and over again like a punk mantra.

If they taught Punk Rock 101 in college, "Album--Generic Flipper" would absolutely be required listening.

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