The title song to the Frampton Brothers new CD may be the best anti-success ode since the Presidents of the United States of America’s “We’re Not Gonna Make It.” Like that song, “File Under F (for Failure)” has a self-lacerating sense of humor and a really good hook. The Brothers, who are as closely related as the Ramones were—i.e., not at all—namecheck the Kinks as inspiration, and there’s a loopy/angry Ramones-Kinks feel to most the album. The band buzzsaws through their songs with high energy and singer-songwriter Ed Masley has a sense of humor reminiscent of Ray Davies. Finally, though, their closest musical kin may be another obscure alternative outfit—South Carolina heroin punks, Honeywagon—who also play power pop with a punk edge.
Tunes such as “Fucked” and “Shit-Colored Glasses” show the Brothers at their most pissed-off, but generally the lyrics are clever, mordant and sometimes very funny. Take “Dressing Room,” for instance, about the unexpected success of a bar band: “It’s everything you wanted / Free beer and little slabs of meat / Just like Van Halen / Your childhood fantasy’s complete.” As that song suggests, much of the material here focuses on the ups and downs of life as an indie rocker. There is the girl in “She’s Reading All the Wrong Fanzines,” who enthusiastically begins her time as a scenester by wearing the coolest T-shirt she’d ever seen, but who comes to realize that “you’re only as cool as your latest style.” And the band described in “The Beginning of the End of the Fun Years,” which drives around in a dilapidated van, breaks up, then gets together again, sounds a lot like the Frampton Brothers.
Nearly all the songs are kicked along at a kinetic pace by the rhythm section of Ray Vasko and Bob Hoag. The fuzz box is always in the “on” position, and lead guitarist Sean Lally, who is technically more adept than most punk guitarists, has a decided impact on the record. There are lots of fills, almost every song has its solo, and in the two mock-metal numbers—“The Devil (or Anyone Else Who’s Better Than You)” and “Evil Twin”—it’s clear that if the Brothers are, indeed, doomed to mainstream failure, they can always get gigs as a Black Sabbath cover band.
Chances are, File Under F (for Failure), put out by Albany’s Cacophone Records, won’t be available at your local chain, so it’s probably best to head first to their website, www.cacophone.com. By turns ironic, inflammatory, and deranged, the album offers yet more proof that the good stuff often isn’t easy to find.