When I read that one of the guys from the Beachwood Sparks was putting out a brooding new wave record I was somewhat intrigued. I tend to prefer my music honey-dripped rather than black clad, so I was interested to see how you’d go about mixing the two, hoping, of course, that the result would be a brighter brand of maudlin seriousness. And at times, that’s what you get from Brent Rademaker and his friends the Frausdots. At other times, you get Echo & the Bunnymen lite. Either way, it ain’t so bad. Even if most of the songs do go on a little too long.
For me “Fashion Death Trends” has just the right blend of said ingredients. The guitars have got a new wave slice and dice, but the vocals are all warm glow and the refrain is Southern California slick. The hunt-and-peck organ squeals are a nice touch on the rocky swing of “The Extremists” and “Soft Light” goes practically gooey in the chorus. “Current Bedding” opens up like something off of This Year’s Model and takes a pleasant little easy listening detour complete with synthesized woodwinds before getting back to Mr. Costello a few times before the end. It’s a really likable track because it’s somewhat independent of the genre their aping. Despite the intense Bowie-ness of its title, “The Man Who Dreaded Sundown” isn’t drawn straight off that well. It’s theatrical, but not painstakingly so, and it’s more pleasantly windswept.
The opener “Dead Wrong” and “A Go See” are the Echo-lite tracks. Rademaker can’t quite perfect the operatic grace of Ian McCulloch, but he’s close enough to keep it interesting on a track like “Broken Arrow” even if it does go on for six and half minutes. I feel like I’m saying this all the time now, but that’s just too long. Being from L.A., the guys and girls in Frausdots would do well to take a little trip up to San Pedro to talk to Mike Watt about song length. The slow burn and drum rolls of “Contact” don’t really hold much interest, but it might be the only track that doesn’t work at all. The retro synths and time capsule lyrics on “Tomorrow’s Sky” end the record with a handshake for the Reaganites. It’s fun, but it pigeonholes itself a little too gladly. Which might be my only major complaint about this record — it’s yet another example of talented people looking backward for inspiration and getting stuck there. Bring what you find back to the rest of us. I’m getting homesick for 2004 all of the sudden.