Shred Flintstone unveils shiny new “Toy” but what’s under the plastic skin?

You be the real one / I’ll be your toy
Don’t forget to throw me out / when I’m broken and destroyed
And I’ll just lay here / you pull the string
How am I supposed to speak / I don’t feel anything

Lyrics by Dan Barrecchia
Writeup by Jason Lee
Photo by Tyler Bertram

OK sure it’s a pretty clickbait-y title (even better if it makes you think of the Jonathan Glazer movie) and it’s not as if we can even definitively answer the question it poses but all us remaining non-ChatGPT music scribes gotta use whatever tools we can and speaking of tools one of the bigger ones for the task at hand is the art of articulating how certain sounds just sound cool but in a largely language-resistant so it’s a challenge for sure cuz no matter how inventive your metaphors and similes the end result is bound to end up at best a smudged Xerox copy of the sounds themselves which can be easily heard at the press of a button or touchscreen anyway in today’s everything everywhere all at once digital panopticon reality… 

…and sure we could sit here and say how Shred Flintstone’s new single “Toy” (produced by Connor Hanson) starts off with what sounds like a guitar purchased from a five-and-dime store played thru a 40-watt toy amp (g: Dan Barrachia) which soon morphs via inverted-fadeout into a more fulsome version of the same loping riff with sludgy stoner-rock distortion appended and how in the pre-chorus the bass frequencies are suddenly even more extra phat ‘n’ chunky and how the drums gets more splashy and sibilant too (d: Ozzie Silva) and how the sustained notes on second guitar make the overall sound even more immensely enveloping during the chorus before morphing into a twin-lead guitar part with a tone like the one you’ve heard in Bill & Ted movies where they say “excellent!” and do that air guitar hammer-on motion…

…but we can’t sit here and describe all this without feeling a twinge of imposter syndrome in twisting these fleeting sandcastles of sounds into hidebound verbose verbiage tho’ then again maybe it’s fitting in this instance when one considers how the song “Toy” appears to be about imposter syndrome in part at least to where “it’s hard to understand / when everything’s pretend” as the band redirects the frenzied energy of their “shreddier” material into a towering power-pop edifice evoking Cheap Trick circa In Color or the Replacements circa Pleased To Meet Me in the process…

…which hardly makes Shred Flintstone “imposters” since they’ve already got plenty of other melodic, hooky songs fully fortified with shred but what’s perhaps most notable here is how the song’s narrator doesn’t seem alarmed at all about submitting to the illusory status of a plastic plaything and one soon to be relegated to obsolescence no less with the lyrics delivered in a wavering alter-boy alto like Rivers Cuomo pining away for his fantasized Japanese sweetheart tho’ the whole “I just wanna be your toy” stance should probably be read somewhat critically seeing as SF’s music in gneeral is possessed of plenty of sly humor and social commentary not to mention their deceptively IDGAF dad-joke moniker…

…and here’s another entirely unauthorized imposter-worthy theory to consider and that’s that the song “Toy” may actually be a not-so-veiled critique of the cultural logic of late capitalism—or what British musical and cultural theorist Mark Fisher once termed “capitalist realism,” an idea easily applicable to themes explored on Shred’s barnstorming 2021 full-length Unlimited Power—where the dire-for-many “reality” of capitalism as the dominant ever more deregulated economic/political/cultural system of our times has seeped so completely into every nook and cranny of our existences to where it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism, despite the high likelihood that not ending the former depends in large part on ending the latter…

…and truly is there a more timely message to be delivered on this post-Thanksgiving BLACK FRIDAY (yeah yeah the song came out a week ago but still the band knew it was coming up) and along these lines could it be mere coincidence that “Toy” combines seductively gleaming surfaces and catchy earworm melodies with an underlying juggernaut of streamrolling sonic power both of which being crucial to capitalism’s cultural logic (seduction, domination) with the song’s subject being seemingly resigned to the false consciousness of a system where the only means of escape offered is thru self-immolation…

So put the heat on / let’s melt away / I don’t want you cold like me / with all the plastic in our veins
And we’ll just lay here / and pull ourselves apart / with our tiny little plastic hands / and our plastic little hearts

…or then again maybe the song is about cosplaying as Ken or silicone sex dolls (see above) either way we’re not here to judge but as long as we’re being speculative we’ll suggest one other takeaway to possibly take away from “Toy” and that’s how when faced with a closed-circuit hegemonic socioeconomic system the most effective means for escaping or even overthrowing that system can be to try and collapse it from within rather than from without as in throwing a spanner in the works

…with one means being to take on the role of a trickster figure or a flat-out imposter who copies, distorts, parodies, mutates, exaggerates, and ultimately degrades the system’s core tenets while exposing its fissures and inherent contradictions- like what happens when you xerox a flyer hundreds of times on an old crappy copy machine until the integrity of the image/the system collapses under its own weight and so we’ll end this piece by collapsing yet another form of late capitalist discourse that being namely the listicle



1) Over the past couple years Shred Flintstone has turned into a compelling singles band releasing one cool standalone platter after another at semi-regular intervals (plus a short EPs too this summer) with a minimum of fuss or muss and where you never quite know what to expect from one installment to the next like with the band’s transition from the laid-back, jam-bandy ramble of “Reno” and “Seasick” and the indie rock reverie of “Love Song” (all from 2022) to January 2023’s Casio keyboard driven (sounds like it anyway!) diamond-in-the-rough “I Want To Get High But I’m Too Paranoid” which sounds like a potential diamond-seller to our ears if were re-recorded by Rhianna or by some face-tatted Soundcloud singer–rapper we haven’t even heard of yet…

…then on June 23, 2023 just as abruptly the Shredders returned to more familiar sonic territory with the grungy Pumpkins-esque power balladry of “Blue 42” which reminds us perhaps even more of the forgotten Scottish band Aerogramme—a part of the Chemikal Underground stable in the early-to-mid aughts and they sound like it—sucking you into its sludgy embrace with hooky tunage and immense, immersive production before turning slightly mathy and dropping down to an acoustic strum before building back up again in a song that’s possibly either about a restaurant located in Elmwood Park, New Jersey or a football audible call…

…and then a week later to the day they tacked on a couple more tracks under the aegis of an EP called Post-Irony (all three were recorded at Timber Studios by Adam Cichoki with Ben on bass, Ozzie on drums, and Charlie Pants on second guitar all of whom also contributed to composing the songs) and from what we can tell these tunes are totally, unironically post-ironic including the just-shy-of-two-minutes rave-up “Dead Weight” (far from it!) and a final track called “Take The L” that’s so overall beguiling it’s likely to make our Top Ten Singles of 2023 list (note: we’re never made such a list before) either about taking the Brooklyn-to-Manhattan-and-back shuttle or about accepting and working through failure and not to cast aspersions on SF’s previous material which we like a lot but between “Toy” and Post Irony it does feel like the band is peaking as confirmed by Dan when we talked about a week ago:

I feel like this is the first year that I really understand how to make the music I want to make. It took a lot of trial and error. That’s why I feel feel more excited than I ever have been in my life to make musicThe Post-Irony EP was the first time I realized something where I was fully satisfied it. 

But it all traces back to my parents playing rock music when I was growing up—lots of Southern rock bands and jam band music. I became fascinated by Jimi Hendrix in 5th grade after hearing “Voodoo Chile.” My mom bought me a guitar that I didn’t start playing much until a few years later when I started smoking weed and annoying my parents in high school.

Photo by Tyler Bertram

2) Shred Flintstone are originally from New Jersey but not intent on CONSTANTLY REMINDING US they’re from New Jersey and for this we’re grateful cuz artists from the state often seem intent on doing just that which can get old pretty fast and despite dropping in a few references to their geographic origins on the debut EP They’re Not There (originally a full LP; see point #3 below) especially on their one Bruce-adjacent tune “I’m on the Parkway” when asked if he sees the band as being part of a New Jersey scene Dan bluntly replied and bless ‘em for it…

I don’t know about that. I don’t feel like I’m a part of any music scene…just feel like I make music. We play shows and whoever I connect with, I connect with. I’ve never really considered myself part of a scene tho’ I’ve seen them and been around them.

…and then when I quoted an online profile that called Shred Flintstone “the hottest New Jersey band since Visiting Day” and asked for Dan for a response he said he’d never heard of them and to be perfectly frank I hadn’t either tho’ for some reason I assumed they were a Jersey emo band (not my finest hour!) probably thinking of Saves the Day instead (!) but as it turns out Visiting Day is the fictional band appearing in a late-season story arc from the first season of The Sopranos which is pretty hilarious especially after you watch this scene…

3) Dan and the rest of Shred Flintstone are quite good at self-editing and have even removed a fair amount of their own material formerly posted to your various streaming platforms and what other band do you know that does that including what looks like it was a Ziggy-esque “imaginary band” concept album of sorts from 2022 entitled Shred Flintstone presents Jake Brake and the Heavy Haulers (“Reno” and “Seasick” originally appeared on the LP) that I’d really love to hear but still I respect the gesture. Dan on the band’s creative process: 

I’ll sit in my room and come up with ideas all the times. Out of 20 song ideas maybe 2 or 3 stand out. Then I’ll bring to whoever I’m playing with—bring it to Charlie and Ozzie who are my tight friends. There’s only so much one person can do. Projects may seem that way but there’s always a bunch of people behind the scenes working on it. Charlie is such a quality guy. Super creative. He fixed my guitar when I smashed it onstage and brought it back like Frankenstein. Ever though I’m the face of Shred, they’ve all been working their asses off this year. 

With “Toy” I was messing around in a dropped D tuning and came up with riff. I brought it to Charlie, Ben, and Ozzie who helped me finish writing it. I kind of wrote the song but it was kind of collaborative at the same time. I would never have formulated those lead parts without Connor Hanson who engineered the song and at once point said “why don’t you try out something new in this part” and I wouldn’t have ever come up with those leads without Connor pushing me to expand the boundaries of the song. “Toy” was recorded at Connor’s studio.

4) Shred Flintstone have an amusing but not overbearing sense of humor and totally live up to both the heaviness and the silliness implied by their name whereas not many bands have managed to pull off this particular balancing act over the year amongst which one could name Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Camper Van Beethoven, They Might Be Giants, and Ween (hold this space for more examples if we think of them but hey thank goodness we got Shred Flintstone) the latter of whom have been officially declared as SF’s spirit animal band, i.e., the musical North Star they all agree upon.

5) Shred Flintstone have recently brought on Ozzie Silva as their drummer and while the band’s past stickmen clearly exhibited some fine chops we know first-hand what a monster Ozzie is on the skins having witnessed his savage yet highly-controlled (and impressively tireless) style when playing with both in InCircles and Chocked Up and what’s more the dude’s one of the most tireless supporters of the local scene and books scads of cool shows featuring local talent thru his own Showbrain Productions with many of said shows held for free and “for the people” in public locales like Tompkins Square Park on the Lower East Side and Maria Hernandez Park in Bushwick and we can’t think of anything more antithetical to to late capitalism than that and here’s some final thoughts from Dan:

It feels like this was a transformative year for me making music. Ozzie’s such a nice person and he’s so dedicated to everything he does. He literally lives just to play and be around rock ’n’ roll. Plus he’s very sociable—a good counterbalance for Shred and myself since he’s so naturally good at meeting and befriending people where I tend to be more shy and not always great at making connections ‘cause I get nervous around people sometimes.

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