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The Frames' flawless masterwork
on 18 June 2003
The Frames - for those of you unlucky enough not to have been initiated into their unique brand of music - are an irish band, fronted by Glen Hansard of 'the Commitments' fame. Despite this, their music seems to have been ignored by most people outside of Ireland, which is a shame, especially when they can make albums like this one.
It might be easy to dismiss 'Dance the Devil...' at first listen. After all, what on this album hasn't been done before? There's the stadium-rock of U2, acoustic ballads, reflections on life without money, and so on. But insidiusly and effortlessly you'll find the simple variety of music on offer, and the earnestness with which it is sung and played, will cause it to creep inside your head and stay there forever.
The album opens with 'Perfect Opening Line', and to be corny, the track does live up to its name, starting with a soft guitar strum and barely spoken words and building into a rocking chorus. 'Seven day mile' is a little quieter, a fairly simple tune that bubbles along to leave you feeling better at the end. 'Pavement tune', produced by a certain Trevor Horn, quite simply rocks in the best possible way. 'Plateau' is a simpler song again, illustrated by some excellent violin work. 'Star Star**' is almost acoustic, stealing elements from the kid's song without ever delving into the realms of twee. 'The stars are underground' manages to reflect the previous song whilst using bass and guitars to create an off-kilter feel. 'God Bless Mom' is rocky again, and I prefer this version (apparently disowned by the band) to the current arrangement they play live. 'Rent day blues' is an excellent track telling the story of, uh, blues when the rent is due. 'Hollocaine' has a weird tone, using stabs of distorted guitar through the chorus. 'neath the beaches' is fully acoustic, a little love song before the end. The final title track combines a host of styles and even samples 'charlie and the chocolate factory' in the middle to build up to an orgasmic finale.
I imagine you're not convinced by all this. But it's the lyrics, and Glen's passionate singing, that hold the disparate styles together and give it a cohesiveness that makes the album truly special. Give them a try, and maybe soon they'll have the support that they so richly deserve.