Ten years is a lifetime in Hardcore Punk. A band’s ability to traverse such a lengthy stay is a testament to their dedication to this thing of ours, which in and of itself is commendable. Remaining sonically relevant, and engaging ever younger audiences, is another beast altogether, and a far more difficult feat to achieve. Somehow, The Flex have managed both. Not only are they the defining band of the New Wave of British Hardcore movement of the 2010’s, not to mention the last band from this original wave still left (“Last Ones Left” indeed) but they continue to trudge on with unrelenting power, orchestrating live madness wherever they roll through.
Chewing Gum For The Ears is the most perfect illustration of the bands raw power to date. From the opening chords of “Warboy”, it is clear that The Flex formula remains unchanged: the vitriol of Boston 82, the lumber and swagger of mid to late 80’s NYHC, the monotone thud of UK82 and the blistering urgency of 90’s Japanese d-beat. A perfectly seamless blend of their influences, the highlights on this LP are too prevalent to list, with CGFTE earning the rare accolade of a no-skips-certified-banger. “Inferno” might hold the greatest up-tempo mosh part since Antidote’s “Foreign Job Lot”, sans the crummy political baggage. Beechwood Terrace starts off sounding like Oi! on steroids before degenerating into an Impact Unit style frenzy, and the title track “Chewing Gum for the Ears” (aka “The Herd” of 2022), begins with an Outburst style intro and develops into an anthem that ensures this LP finishes in the most appropriate of fashions. However, it is the growth on display which is most astounding; a track like “Stranger” sees the band sounding like a British Death Side, while the drum-and-bass call and response, during the song’s closing mosh part, reveals a level of musicality few bands can match. These nuances add a level of intensity and urgency which propels Chewing Gum For The Ears above their previous output, making this their most concise and crucial release to date.
Sonically, James Atkinson of Voorhees and Gentlemen’s Pistols fame, has captured the band’s sound perfectly; all trebly buzzsaw guitars, guttural vocals, and a perfectly tight rhythm section, whilst Tin Savage’s ever excellent art ensures a level of visual consistency that few bands are able to maintain. I finish on these two points for an important reason, The Flex have understood the assignment; produce an LP that looks and sounds like everyone’s favourite UKHC band, whilst pushing themselves to the limits of their impressive technical range and sophisticated palate. LS4 still kicking in your door.Our take
: I often write in these descriptions that the label’s official blurb says all that needs saying about a release, and usually that’s because there isn’t much to say. That’s not the case with Chewing Gum for the Ears
. It’s a complex record that I have complex feelings about, and the label’s description hits many of the points that went through my head as I’ve listened to this record over the past several weeks. The Flex has a lot of different ingredients in their stew, and some of them are ingredients I typically steer clear of, particularly late 80s / early 90s New York Hardcore. I don’t care for many modern bands who borrow from that era, but with the Flex there are so many other influences I really like—80s US hardcore, UK82 punk, d-beat—that I still love it. Chewing Gum for the Ears
is a savage hardcore record, ripping and raw and raging in all the right ways. And even when they tear into one of those crowd-pleasing breakdowns (like in “Lost Cause,” for instance), they do it with a panache I can get behind. At the end of the day, The Flex is just a great band, and the proof is in this record.