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LPs from the Attic: Flat Duo Jets — Introducing the Flat Duo Jets

July 26, 2010

Introducing the Flat Duo JetsFlat Duo Jets — Introducing the Flat Duo Jets (Norton Records, 1995)

The Flat Duo Jets trafficked in a compelling mashup of 50’s, garage, and punk rock. Guitarist Dexter Romweber and drummer “Crow” made one hell of an energetic racket with their economical approach (this album features drums, guitar, and vocals, with the occasional piano). Introducing the Flat Duo Jets sounds like a debut title but was actually the band’s fourth record. While it was my introduction to this powerful duo’s influential, “essential” rock’n’roll, the band must have been toiling in near obscurity prior to this record. Otherwise, why would you have to keep making your presence known like this?

In terms of influencing other bands, Jack White’s White Stripes–and, to a lesser extent, The Black Keys–should be sending the Jets royalty checks. From the stripped-down nature of the line-up (the trinity of drums, bass, and vox), to the emphasis on deft-but-thundering drums, both bands learned a thing or two about just how broad an emotional and sonic palette you can have at your disposal after peeling off layers of adornment. While the Flat Duo Jets didn’t play flashy solos, wear matching outfits, spawn a cottage industry of hipsteria, or boast any kind of “aesthetic,” they pack a visceral punch and perform with a grimy fervor that extends notions of authenticity into areas neither White nor the Keys can quite reach, no matter how successful both are with their designs on the formula. There are no overdubs, no studio tricks, no pretenses. The album sounds murky, the mix almost claustrophobic, as if you are right in the room with them, adding to the tension. You’re either in a barroom or a basement, and either location fits perfectly.

A wisely chosen cover tune illustrates how much impact a streamlined duo like this can have: jaw-droppingly effective and affecting “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” Sometimes it’s the singer and not the song; other times, the song is so good that any capable vocalist with half a brain and half a heart can make it work. Here, an expressive, soulful voice is married to an incomparable set of words and chords. Far from being a rote cover tune employed to snag a little sidestream fame, this is a reading with heart, immediacy, and intensity to spare. Check the guitar chord changes that take the place of the horns at the end of “Too Long.” That’s the power of the right song in the right hands. Otis Redding himself would approve.

3 Comments
  1. Christopher Porter permalink
    July 26, 2010 3:12 pm

    I remember seeing them at Heresy (four-score and 5 eons ago). The vocal mike/PA wasn’t working. Rather than pout about it, the FDJs played their set as instrumentals. The lead singer was wearing a button-up shirt and possibly slacks. The drummer looked like Animal from the “Muppets.” All in all, it was a memorable and amazing show.

  2. PMcD permalink
    July 26, 2010 3:18 pm

    Love Dex Romweber. He’s still out there, now under the moniker Dex Romweber Duo and has plenty of great stuff available from Bloodshot, including a live LP recorded at Jack White’s Third Man: http://www.bloodshotrecords.com/artist/dex-romweber-duo

    Definitely agree that all the two-piece, rough, garage sound current hipsters should be paying out to this guy. Hell, I’m a big fan of the sound, and Bloodshot, but still didn’t find him and his music until a couple of years ago.

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