The Ghost Club on Taking an Ego-Free Approach to Music

Flesh Car – Flesh Car
(Tough Lover)

Like many artists perhaps best known for their 1980s and ‘90s work, Craig Wedren, the voice behind the spectacularly odd (for indie-rock) Shudder to Think and now the more improvisational Flesh Car, has been busy of late. 

Earlier in 2024, he released the solo album The Dream Dreaming, which draws on everything from Shudder’s post-hardcore to the synthetic squeals and squalls that characterized much of his soundtrack work—though his most powerful gesture of the past few years remains “No Return,” the jarring theme he and Anna Waronker wrote for the ‘90s-set horror-mystery series Yellowjackets. The boutique punk label L.G. Records recently released the (thus far) vinyl-only 1987, a collection of Shudder’s earliest demos and singles tracks. The man is having a moment, and Flesh Car isn’t much like any of the ones before it. 

Wedren—known for his soaring, theater-kid vocals and surreal lyrics—took part in a unique lineup for his second record of the year, joining fellow composers Jherek Bischoff (who’s worked with Amanda Palmer) on baritone guitar/synths and drummer Jacob Richards (of the project BATTERY and elsewhere). According to the trio, they improvised for a weekend, worked out some ideas, and recorded this self-titled collection all in a single take, with one idea flowing into another. It can be enjoyed as one 50-minute hunk or 10 sections-if-not-exactly-songs. 

Structures come and go, and theme emerge (the woozy synth and baritone chords of opener “Being Inside Made Me Go Insane” or the New Wave riff and Alan Vega-vocals on the excellent “Whatever She Makes You” and its scarier coda, “Break the Child”), only to recede, replaced by ethereal spookiness (the nearly 11-minute drift “Wishing Blue”) or disconcerting atmospherics (“It Tickles,” the main idea of which is…“it tickles”). 

Thanks to Richards’ hi-hats, “So Discreet” is the most song-like moment, but it can never escape Wedren’s spectral presence, while closer “The List Goes On” builds on the previous elements for a finale that would be harrowing if not for the groove. It’s a fine return to weirdness for one of alt-rock’s true eccentrics. GRADE: B+

Tough Lover

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