Flats - Better Living

Flats - Better Living

Dead Kennedys? The Damned? The Clash? It’s closer to Cher Lloyd.


They’ve certainly generated a lot of interest and divided opinion so far, Flats, London’s punk foursome; either punk gods in waiting or talentless nobodies depending on who you ask. The truly absurd structure that lies at the heart of Flats, if you don’t like it, you don’t get it, clearly.

Truth be told I didn’t always see it like this, I was introduced to Flats through the single ‘Never Again’, a ramshackle fuzzy storm with a fairly serviceable riff and Gallows-ish vocals. It wasn’t bad, it could have had potential. For the album ‘Better Living’ though Flats have taken a less listenable approach.

‘Foxtrot’ kicks things off with an ominous bassline before Dan Devine’s Frank-Carter-with-no-concept-of-timing vocals make their ugly presence all too clear. It could probably be mistaken for visceral but to me at least it seems more like a toddler having a tantrum at a Mogwai gig. Well, a Mogwai cover band. ‘Tango’ has a bit where he’s not shouting, a lot where he is squalling and some intense drumming. ‘Shuffle’ is the third song of three to be named after a dance and one of the five on a twelve track album. How artsy. The riff in ‘Country’ has a Killing Joke-ish flavour and compliments Devine’s delivery markedly better than the tracks around it. The rise in quality is quickly abandoned. Ignoring the questionable vocals, ‘Slam’ is the album’s best track, musically, but its gargantuan guitar line is still far closer to Lostprophets’ debut LP than anyone would care to admit.

Sure it’s loud, you can love a band for being loud and I assure you I do love a lot of louder bands, but as loud and aggressive Flats can sound it can’t come close to hiding a lack of pretty much everything other than extreme volume and misplaced nothing-better-to-do-than-have-a-go-at-everyone-else small-minded aggression.

People have a tendency to react badly to bands that are clearly not the passionate statement-makers we’d like to be carrying music’s flags, but sometimes it’s better to make no statement at all than make the flimsy, flawed hollow shell of a reaction Flats are pretending to be. With a party trick of slagging off Paul Weller’s primadonna tendencies they chose to support Morrissey on tour, a man who leaves a five digit figure of fans he’s abandoned at gigs in his wake. Another line in Flats’ unwritten manifesto is aimed at the bands who mine the history of post-punk for inspiration, a same Flats happy to support The Joy Formidable, Chapel Club and The Horrors. They are so bored of empty scene-hopping buzzbands they let Klaxon’s Jamie Reynolds produce their album?
Flats aren’t far off being the biggest cliché around and could easily be nominated to fight Towers of London in a contest to be punk’s greatest disappointment. If punk is characterised by its defiance, its relevance and momentum then ‘Better Living’ is just the spoilt over-indulged wasteful mess that the glossiest, shallowest pop could rarely get close to. Dead Kennedys? The Damned? The Clash? It’s closer to Cher Lloyd.

But anyway, not to worry Flats’ fans, we probably just didn’t ‘get’ it.