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The Washington Squares, the Fleshtones, Scruffy the Cat and Living Colour try for breakout success

The Fleshtones

The Fleshtones, 1982

Chris Walter/Wireimage/Getty

Antichic on american campuses is dead. Students are serious about how they look — as long as the look is fun. Hippie, preppie and nerd stereotypes blur in a riot (or nonviolent demonstration) of colors and patterns. If fashion rules at school, it’s a benevolent reign, a glasnost of the get-up, allowing a large curve for making the grade. Here, four distinctive bands on the verge of graduating to the big time mix and match while marching to the beat of their own drummers.

The Washington Squares
The Squares have gone where no folk act has gone before — from opening for Joan Jett to schmoozing with Paul Shaffer on MTV. Appearing onstage in beatnik regalia, the members of this acoustic trio — Tom Goodkind, Lauren Agnelli and Bruce Paskow — blend lush vocal harmonies, hard-driving acoustic guitars and a sardonic sense of humor to parody current pop hits as well as to espouse their own hopelessly outdated ideas of peace, love and understanding. Dig their debut album, The Washington Squares (on Gold Castle), daddy-o.

The Fleshtones
The harsh reality of rock & roll is that the average garage band’s life span is akin to that of a hatched mayfly. The Fleshtones are nearly legendary on the basis of their survival alone, and their latest album, Fleshtones vs. Reality (on Emergo), is a testament to their tenacity. The kings of Queens (as in Queens, New York) have been spreading their psychedelic-inspired garage-band gospel since 1976; incredibly enough, they’ve hardly changed their lineup: Peter Zaremba, lead vocals, keyboards and MTV appearances; Keith Streng, guitar and vocals; Gordon Spaeth, saxophone and vocals; Bill Milhizer, drums and vocals; and Robert Warren, bass and vocals.

Scruffy The Cat
Scruffy the Cat has scratched its way onto the college charts with its first LP, Tiny Days (on Relativity). The Boston roots-rock quartet — Charlie Chesterman, lead vocal and guitar; Stephen Fredette, lead guitar; Mac-Paul Stanfield, bass; and Randall Gibson IV, drums — has won the hearts of small-club America with its fierce live show, which mixes outrageous covers with deft originals.

Living Colour
Fronted by fireball guitarist Vernon Reid, Living Colour is, by many estimates, the most popular unsigned band in New York City. The group first drew attention when Mick Jagger — who had been blown away by a Living Colour gig at CBGB — produced two sides for the band earlier this year (Reid plays on Jagger’s soon-to-be-released album). But Living Colour’s hot live act, featuring, in addition to Reid, Muzz Skillings on bass, Will Calhoun on drums and Corey Glover on vocals, speaks — or rather raves — for itself.


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