The 3rd heavy as hell piece in Atavistic's Flesh Eaters reissue series- replete with an oversize booklet, several previously unreleased bonus tracks & liner notes by Byron Coley.
"Although it was not the last album to be issued under the name of the Flesh Eaters, Hard Road to Follow occupies a unique and special place in the bandís pantheon. Released in 1983, by Chris Dís own Upsetter label, it was the fourth annual and final installment in the original sequence of Flesh Eatersí albums. Hard Road was also the first to have the same line-up as its predecessor, Forever Came Today. The bandís fourth corrosive masterpiece in as many years, Hard Road is the best evidence of a band that had achieved a still unequaled massiveness of sound. For my money, this particular version of the Flesh Eaters represents the greatest rock band ever. They were it. Their live shows (of which I missed only two or three) were uniformly mind-melting, and while the records they left cannot convey everything that the Flesh Eaters were, they remain amongst the best albums ever.
Vocalist Chris Desjardins was, of course, the only constant throughout the history of the Flesh Eaters, but the band he assembled in 1981 had a brilliant two year trajectory. Don Kirk, a crazed and sometimes-mohawked construction worker, was the guitarist. Although Donís Hollywood history began deep in the blue circle of Germs worship, his playing was massively muscular and riff-heavy, although this was balanced against the same kind of roots-appreciation that marked even the most punked-out work of Billy Zoom and Dave Alvin. Robyn Jameson ran the Hully Gully rehearsal studios and always acted like he had just about HAD IT UP TO HERE with everyone elseís shit. But his bass playing had a strange, almost-prog-rock fluidity that absolutely meshed with whatever was going on Ė from the skewed soul slink of Al Greenís "Rhymes" to the lopsided form-overload of "Impossible Crime." Robyn still plays with Chris today, and is one of the unsung geniuses of the full-bottom massage. Chris Wahl, plucked from the Valleyís experimental music scene, was another odd goddamn duck. But he hit those drums harder than anyone Iíve ever seen, and he truly loved the way the music piled up around him and his omnipresent cigarette. On those nights during which the Flesh Eatersís music achieved true punk-trance-vision-projection, it was usually at the behest of Wahlyís continuous roiling. Such was the band that was assembled for Forever Came Today.
After recording and touring behind that album, Jill Jordan (formerly of the Castration Squad) began doing vocals with the band. Later she was joined by a thin, dark-haired Goth named Stephanie, but that didnít happen until near the end of the bandís creative arc. On Hard Road, all the female vocals are by Jill, and she was as totally fucking cool as the cover pic would lead you to believe Ė tough, funny, beautiful and a perfect visual/aural foil for Chris. The songs she sings on here are especially hip, and give a hint at some of the sonic turf Mr. D would later explore with Divine Horsemen. I dare you to resist the goddamn magic the pair create on the cover of Sam & Daveís "I Take What I Want," or in the terrific death-to-the-cops chorus on "Weíll Never Die."
The material on Hard Road is some of the best that Chris ever wrote. Several of the songs had been percolating for a while, and these really got hammered into shape during the U.S. tour the quartet did in the summer of í82. Razor-sharp rippers like "Father of Lies" and "Eyes Without a Face" became total crowd destroyers, as did a couple of the sludge masterworks that were not included on the original version of this album. The title track, for instance, never made it to the LP, although it is a wonderful grinding mass of metal riffs. In concert, it would often end in chaos, with Chris rolling around on the stage of the Anti Club, yowling, "Stay away from the main road/Stay away from the railroad tracks!" Also included here is "Lake of Burning Fire," which was recorded a little earlier than most of the material, but was an occasional and much-loved set-closer of this era, serving as the Flesh Eatersí one-song distillation of the Stoogesí Funhouse.
The covers here include the two aforementioned soul tracks, which used to really fuck up the punks when they were played at more doctrinaire surf-dud venues. But everyone in the band loved this stuff and they really managed to pull it off in ways that most combos could have never imagined. The other two covers here are of old Flesh Eaters songs Ė "Impossible Crime" and "Pony Dress" Ė both of which date from the groupís earliest days. Compare them to the originals (which are great, themselves) to get an idea of how incredible this band was. "Pony Dress," in particular, may be my single favorite Flesh Eaters track, and thatís saying something. But listen to it, man, itís perfect. Itís punk, itís rock, itís roots. It just cuts across every style, every era, with exquisitely crafted power and beauty.
Towards the end, these guys were doing other covers, like the Flaminí Grooviesí "Slow Death," the Stonesí "Soul Survivor," and even the Animalsí "White Houses" (which I swear they did at a going away party for Pete Tillman of the Lipstick Killers), but that shit doesnít exist anywhere except in bruised memories.
Itís nothing but goddamn great that this album is available once again. The basic tracks are fantastic, and the bonus ones really fill out the story in a buxom way. Even though the live take of "Divine Horseman" (originally released as one-half of a giveway 7" 45 for Forced Exposure subscribers in early nineties Ė flipside was a demo version of Divine Horsemenís "Motherís Worry") is a little rough sonically, it conveys a hint of how powerful, how undeniably majestic this band was. They were my favorite of all time. And after they were gone I never bothered to have a favorite again. Thatís how it was. Thatís how it is.
The Flesh Eaters are dead. Long live the Flesh Eaters. -Byron Coley Deerfield MA 2004