The Frames: The Cost

Heather Snell

One cannot argue that The Frames' tendency to wallow in personal pain, at the expense of more politically pressing issues, breaks new ground.

The Frames

The Cost

Label: Anti-
US Release Date: 2007-02-20
UK Release Date: 2006-10-30

Why some bands gain popularity in their countries of origin and not on the international scene is a mystery that attests, perhaps, to the difference place continues to make in a world increasingly characterized as one in which space and time are compressed. As if to show that the global village is a fiction manufactured by transnational capitalists, The Frames have proven over the last 15 years that while they may not seduce audiences outside of Ireland, they are more than capable of endearing themselves to their fellow countrymen. From the 1992 debut ,Another Love Song through 1999's highly acclaimed Dance the Devil to The Cost, Glen Hansard, Colm MacConlomaire, Joseph Doyle, Robert Bochnik and Johnny Boyle have successfully wooed listeners at home with their delicately layered folk/rock.

The fusion makes sense given the place from which these lads hail: a nation with a history of colonialism, partition, and ongoing conflict between North and South. Their music has been aptly described as desperate in tone, epic in proportion, and rudderless, phrases that might apply to Ireland's own fraught position within global, cultural flows. One of The Cost's best tracks, "Falling Slowly," expresses the need to find solid ground in the face of language games that obscure as much as they expose the complexities of a world continually in flux:

Words fall through me

And always fool me

And I can't react

And games that never amount

To more than they're meant

Will play themselves out

Take the sinking boat and point it home

We've still got time

The Frames might fail to engage listeners in the United States and elsewhere, but what they do excel at is pointing their sounds homeward.

Significantly, the band's vocals and the instruments that follow their lead alternate between somber quiets and explosive crescendos to express the emotion merely implied by the lyrics. When Hansard sings "And together we will rise / And together we will rise," the violin echoes the sentiment and takes the song toward a release that can only be described as daring. When he sings that "Too many sad words make a sad, sad song," the guitars agree and, in unison, rock the boat toward safer shores. And just in case these sad, sad strains get too depressing, Hansard stresses that "The Side You Never Get to See" is "alive, comes alive." The result is a coherent piece of work that is all the more impressive for having been recorded live. If there is something compelling here, it lies most saliently in the emotional immediacy of a performance good enough to be reproduced for CD without the help of overdubbing.

However textured the musical journey The Cost offers, however, the album tends to lapse too excruciatingly into the darkness from which Hansard's creativity seems to come:

People all get ready

'Cos we're breaking down the band

Rewrite what's gone already

And see it through with angry hands

And what has gone before us

Is a lot, is a lot

And who'll be there to ignore us

When you're not, when you're not

Despite its moments of optimism, The Cost's cynicism suggests that the band might make a greater effort to steer away from the very negativity that tends to permeate the reception of their music in countries other than Ireland.

While the band's failure to "make it" worldwide probably says more about listeners outside of Ireland than it does The Frames, one cannot argue that The Frames' tendency to wallow in personal pain, at the expense of more politically pressing issues, breaks new ground. Hansard's vocals do gesture toward politicized issues such as language, but they always return to the intimate, and thus also explicit, interplay between "I" and "you." As PopMatters critic Marc Hogan remarked in reference to 2004's Set List, The Frames offer "a suitably innocuous makeout record"-- one worth the cost. Whether or not their 2006 effort signals a radical rupture from what has gone before is a different matter entirely.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.