Frank Jordan: Milk the Thrills

[8 July 2004]

By Jason MacNeil

Frank Jordan isn’t what I thought it would be. Who names a three-piece band Frank Jordan when nobody in the band is named Frank Jordan? So who in the hell is Frank Jordan and why was he the band’s chosen moniker? Those are questions this album doesn’t answer. What it does answer, though, is a lot of questions that a three-piece band might have about not sounding like a rock band or having enough edge to be taken seriously. The trio of Mike Visser on guitars and vocals, Matt Ontjes on bass, and Devin Hurley on drums is a testament to all that is still good about the state of rock—tight pop songs wrapped within an arrangement that borders on psychedelic, grange (garage and grunge—hey, a new word!), and roots rock. Such is the case on the gorgeous “Could’ve Been”, which starts in a wave of My Bloody Valentine-meets-the Cure guitar and never questions the end result. Another benefit is that they don’t sound like some manufactured punk or rock band, groups that wouldn’t be caught dead riding a melody like this for so long. Think Hawksley Workman fronting the Black Watch—eclectic but rooted in great college rock hues.

“Green Light, Red Light” is far more deliberate in its tempo, building brick by brick while winding itself into a moody and murky rock tune. It’s deeper and darker, but in an orchestrated, Led Zeppelin-like manner. Thus, there is a memorable method to this madness. Early on, you’ll find yourself repeating these songs or playing them back before they’re finished, a rare achievement in this day and age when most want to flip through 11 songs to find a decent one. Frank Jordan tones its down on the acoustic-centered pop of “Looked Around”. This leads quite appropriately into the darker, almost gothic touches stirring around “Circles”—a song that doesn’t have the hard rock or metal guitar riff that would make it a pre-packaged hit. Instead, the trio again creates a sonic landscape that draws you in and you’re hooked before you know it. The track also veers into an experimental area that comes off like a natural progression.

The tale of a suicide bomber is touched on during the sweetly crafted “Funnyhead”, which has one bobbing along despite the carnage described in the lyrics. The hi-hat goes a bit into overdrive but doesn’t instantly resemble bands like Franz Ferdinand. The softer pop side becomes apparent on the acoustic, Kinks-meets-Beatles-like pop oozing from “Fumble”. Frank Jordan veers from this in the bridge and lets itself loose to great results. The highlight of the second side of the album is the deliciously inventive “To Never Have Without”—starting off with a mandolin prior to going down a road Robert Smith has walked down many times before in its lengthy and grand guitar solo/bridge that gets rather spacey as it evolves. Oh, and there’s a few moments of accordion-cum-Celtic folk added afterwards if the first six minutes didn’t have you confused enough.

By this time, Frank Jordan have probably won over most listeners, but they aren’t about to give any filler. “Headaches” is achingly beautiful as Visser reaches somewhat on the higher end of his register. One track that could be considered filler is the acoustic-reggae overtones on “Always Temporary”, resembling something beneath them in some respects after what they’ve presented thus far. It’s atoned for during its rambling, rapid, and frantic surf guitar-meets-Spaghetti Western finale, although fading in the distance as it fades out too soon. On the whole, Frank Jordan would be very proud of Frank Jordan—the album is definitely worthy of year-end “Top of…” consideration.

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