Fatal Flowers

  • Fatal Flowers
  • Fatal Flowers (UK WEA) 1985 
  • Younger Days (Atlantic) 1986 
  • Johnny D. Is Back! An Album by the Fatal Flowers (Atlantic) 1989 
  • Pleasure Ground (UK Mercury) 1990 

Growing up in Holland must be a strange experience for kids with rock’n’roll dreams. This Amsterdam quartet began blandly enough, playing inoffensive characterless rock on its first two albums, the second of which offers the first glimmer of the group’s truly weird (or truly stupid) approach: a punky rendition of “Gimme Some Truth,” recorded nearly a decade after Generation X’s definitive cover of the John Lennon song.

Produced in Woodstock by Mick Ronson, Johnny D. delves deeply into evidently unintended nostalgia: these guys don’t seem to realize how dated they sound. (I mean, really, how long has it been since anyone wrote an unironic song entitled “Rock and Roll Star”?) Digging into vintage American rock’n’roll with unselfconscious aplomb, the group relives the fabulous ’70s as if “Radar Love” were still in the charts. Perhaps in tribute to the days of stoned-out inanity, the lyrics are utterly ridiculous: “Here’s another hippy in smoking / Thanking all his pimps and more / How he wished he was only joking / But he knows he’s just another whore.”

Sounding like castaways scavenging through an unearthed archaeological jukebox and marveling at their ear-opening discoveries, the Fatal Flowers go totally over the top on Pleasure Ground, also produced by Ronson. Stumbling across evidence of African-Americans, they go wild covering Arthur Conley’s 1968 vintage “Funky Street,” complete with wah-wah pedal and dated clich├ęs (“We’re grooving in the city/We’ve got to get down with it”). Elsewhere, the oblivious timewarpers reproduce Kiss-like metal riffs, imitate the J. Geils Band, Bad Company, the Rolling Stones and ’70s Pink Floyd, adopt an Arlo Guthrie voice (for “Rage Out”) and close the LP with a Bowie-styled cover of Roxy Music’s “Both Ends Burning.” Amazing. (Memo to the band’s lawyer: it’s considered poor form to claim writing credit for world-famous songs.)

[Ira Robbins]