Life gets in the way of even the best-laid plans. The members of North Jersey trio Flatus know this all too well. After 15 years of touring and four full-length CDs, the band was forced to restrict its performance schedule to a mere dozen or so shows a year in 2003 due to the relocation of lead singer/guitarist Gene Finocchiaro, also the band’s principal songwriter. This forced separation hasn’t diminished the band’s ability to command the stage; at 21 years of age, Flatus is still a band to be reckoned with, as evidenced by their recent appearance at the Clash Bar in Clifton.
Flatus is a band firmly rooted in the three-chord pop-punk of The Ramones, and the power and energy of their heroes isn’t missing from their catalog, nor is their sense of humor. Indeed, the sweaty, one-hour plus set turned in by the trio from Sussex County included a broad selection of strong Flatus originals like “Blindsided” and “Bandwagon” deftly interspersed with tongue in cheek numbers like “Throwing You Out” and “Budget Beer.”
“Piso Mojado” and “Disclaimer,” two standout tracks from Flatus’ most recent CD, 2003’s Crashing Down, showcased the dynamic vocal interplay between Finocchiaro and bassist Ted Shiko, while drummer Matt DeSomma held things together with a relentless drive that powered the fast-paced set.
Shiko has kept Flatus going through several personnel changes over the years, and he’s clearly the ringleader of this outfit, punctuating breaks in the set with the occasional self-deprecating aside. His charismatic stage presence and deft, melodic bass runs are the band’s strong suit, and it’s easy to find yourself mesmerized by his effortless agility.
Flatus is a band that isn’t afraid to throw in the occasional Bad Religion tune one minute and cover the melodic synth-pop of Toto’s “Africa” the next. But to these ears the highlight of their set is the soaring, passionate “Crashing Down,” the chorus of which was still echoing in my head for days afterward. Indeed, this is a band you can stand back and appreciate as well as dance your ass off to, and the diverse crowd at the Clash Bar seemed happy to do both.
This is a band with hundreds of shows under their belt, and 21 years down the road their power and intensity remain undiminished; they’re still one of the tightest live bands you’ll ever see. Flatus is done for 2009, but plans are in the works for a long-awaited return to the Pacific Northwest next spring in addition to the usual NY/NJ run of shows, so do stay tuned.