I Used To Be Pretty
One of Los Angeles punk rock’s most widely admired yet little-heard bands makes a striking return to records on Jan. 18, as Yep Roc Records issues an all-new collection by The Flesh Eaters, I Used to Be Pretty.
On the release, founding vocalist and songwriter Chris Desjardins — better known as Chris D. — is backed by the legendary “all-star” edition of the band, originally heard on the 1981 set A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die: Dave Alvin (guitar) and Bill Bateman (drums) of the Blasters; John Doe (bass) and D.J. Bonebrake (marimba and percussion) of X; and Steve Berlin (saxophones) of the Plugz (and later the Blasters and Los Lobos). The album was produced collectively by the band members.
On five of the album’s 11 tracks, this superpowered unit is joined by Julie Christensen, Desjardins’ vocal partner in both The Flesh Eaters’ successor band Divine Horsemen and latter-day editions of the original group. The singers were married during the ’80s.
The Flesh Eaters were among the groundbreaking bands that emerged from the original Hollywood punk club the Masque in 1977. Chris D. — poet, novelist, actor, screenwriter, director, and film programmer — developed a stormy, lyrically intense style that drew on such varied sources as symbolist poetry, violent American pulp novels, and films running the gamut from classic European cinema to samurai, horror, spaghetti Western, and noir genre movies. He was also active on the local scene as a writer for the L.A. punkzine Slash and an A&R man and producer for the magazine’s offshoot record label.
The band’s first records employed various ad hoc assemblies of local punk musicians. For its second album, the howling, swampy, hoodoo-infused A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die — produced by Chris D. and released on Slash’s subsidiary imprint Ruby Records — the singer recruited a band then unrivaled for musical firepower. The potent lineup played only a handful of unforgettable local shows before its members’ commitments to their own bands sundered the group.
However, the Minute to Pray Flesh Eaters’ reputation abided for decades, and in 2006 the lineup reunited for an appearance at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in the U.K. and a few West Coast appearances. Two more brief regroupings followed in 2015 and 2018.
Desjardins says he sees I Used to Be Pretty as a new chapter in the evolution of one of L.A. punk’s most powerful bands: “A few weeks after we completed the album, I was saying to the guys that what was so special is that we were no longer just the sum of our parts — we were more than the sum of our parts. We were like a single, symbiotic organism, and we each unconsciously, intuitively knew what the rest of the band was going to play split seconds before we played it. Sometimes I’ll listen to one of the songs now, and it really raises the hair on the back of my neck.”
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