The ready adaptability of this Brixton quartet enabled them to rise from the ashes of London’s ill-fated Batcave scene — a curious association to begin with, since these mascaraed, leather-clad poseurs are more closely related to old-fashioned rock than gothic grave-robbing. With undisguised superstar aspirations, they signed to Polydor and released two excellent singles (“Restless” and “Subterraneans”). The self-titled album that followed, despite the inclusion of both songs, sinks into the mire, an overlong, overproduced ’80s punk take on the Rolling Stones (check the cover of “Jigsaw Puzzle”), a commodity for which there is no pressing demand.
Retreating to the world of independent labels, Flesh for Lulu released the controversial (some deemed the cover art sacrilegious) Blue Sisters Swing EP. An unexpected and most impressive change of course, the five tracks rock with verve and abandon, sometimes approaching heavy metal. Best song title: “I May Have Said You’re Beautiful, but You Know I’m Just a Liar.”
Big Fun City marks yet another transformation. Though sticking to rock, the group introduces traces of other musical styles — funk, country-western, punk-pop — into the mix. Still a bunch of vain poseurs, FFL don’t follow any fashion trends in their musical changes. (The UK CD also contains Blue Sisters Swing.)
Forever the chameleons, Flesh for Lulu did another about-face on their third album, Long Live the New Flesh. This time it’s quite clear in which direction the band’s course is set — towards popular American acceptance. “I Go Crazy,” Flesh for Lulu’s contribution to the soundtrack of the John Hughes film Some Kind of Wonderful, got a lot of airplay; the entire LP is similarly tailor-made for American radio. “I Go Crazy” (left off the British edition) and “Siamese Twist” are as adventurous as this record gets; the remainder is homogeneous AOR synth/guitar rock.
With Plastic Fantastic, another helping of danceable “alternative” rock, glossily enhanced by producer Mark Opitz’s decidedly commercial sheen, the group tries yet again to grasp that golden ring. The record starts out strong with the frantic “Decline and Fall” and the heavenly pure pop of “Every Little Word,” but is soon overcome by a dark blur of genericism, brightened only momentarily by some laughably lame lyrics and the title track’s echoes of “Hot in the City.” In fact, beyond its lack of sales, there’s little to distinguish this effort from a Billy Idol album.