Call for Feature Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

Music
cover art

The Frames

Set List

(Anti; US: 24 Feb 2004; UK: 23 Feb 2004)

Unless you’re Peter fucking Frampton, you’re unlikely to win many new fans with a live album. Even the dinosaur rocker himself had already built a steady worldwide fan base as a session player, member of Humble Pie and solo artist (his later turn as Billy Shears in the movie adaptation of Sgt. Pepper’s notwithstanding).


Yet most Americans are discovering Irish phenoms the Frames through their current live release, Set List. The band’s Anti debut captures an energetic still image of a band equal parts U2 four-chord bombast (opener “Revelate”) and quirky Barenaked Ladies pop (“Lay Me Down”) shot through a filter of feedback-laden indie rock (the band’s studio recordings have been produced by Steve Albini, among others). Eight-minute “Fitzcarraldo” even evokes Before These Crowded Streets-era Dave Matthews Band, complete with throaty emotion in the louder parts and proggy fiddle solo.


In short, why aren’t these rootsy Irish heroes the next big thing state-side? Judging by the fervent crowd sing-alongs masterfully mixed in this recording, the Frames even put on a kickass live show.


One clue may be the songwriting. Though new track “The Blood” oozes with melancholy and “Star Star” offers the disc’s best effort at tasty pop singledom, the songs rarely leap out on their own merit. This is pretty standard turn-of-the-century modern rock, leavened with indie-rock noise as a nod to the hipsters.


The passion underpinning each performance is sure to cinch this disc for longtime fans, as will the clever covers interpolated within the Frames’ own songs—“Pure Imagination” from the Willy Wonka soundtrack? Why didn’t I think of that? These covers also reveal the band’s shortcomings; the chords of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” may be no more unique than the Frames’ compositions, but lead singer Glen Hansard stumbles through Marley’s sacramental lyrics, even botching a key poetic device by singing the wrong words. (Hansard says “Your Face” was written about listening to Marley’s music, but clearly he needs to spend more time with his record collection—or any online lyrics database).


Such cavils aside, Set List depicts a band as good as anything else on “alternative” radio bringing its fans into audible ecstasy, if the “ooh” backing vocals on “The Blood” are any measure of audience joy. College students looking to pick up the kid in the dorm who always discovers the next MTV darling three months in advance might find Set List a suitably innocuous makeout record.


The band’s considerable fire in concert is anything but unforgettable when set to disc, but their blend of indie and multi-platinum influences should propel any subsequent studio effort into the buzz bin alongside stronger, similarly accessible acts like Massachusetts indie-popsters Guster or fellow Irishman Damien Rice.

Related Articles
8 Jul 2012
Glen Hansard offered New Yorkers a taste of his impromptu busking in the lobby of the Beacon before his show and then delivered a smattering of songs from his work, including the new album Rhythm and Repose on stage.
13 Jul 2011
Vedder’s solo show brought a fantastic evening of solo ukulele songs and some Pearl Jam favorites to Hartford. However, as he shared his softer side, Vedder was occasionally outdone by a loud audience.
20 Mar 2007
One cannot argue that The Frames' tendency to wallow in personal pain, at the expense of more politically pressing issues, breaks new ground.
12 Apr 2005
The Frames sound like a folk band at heart, but they structure their songs around steady builds, employing crescendos, electronics, and stadium dramatics to outsize their music.
Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.