Frank And Earnest

Old Francis

Written by: PP on 23/10/2010 14:22:01

I wish I could award extra points for the flying plastic dinosaur or the handwritten note Frank And Earnest included within the envelope for their new EP "Old Francis", but it's just not necessary. The songs are so brilliant that even without bribery, one falls in love with their untethered honesty and the unpolished rough edge of the ringing guitars, so much so that this has gone straight into my top 5 releases this year. The band name is fitting, Frank And Earnest, two words used in connection to describe honesty, because it feels like every line, every note, every vocal line comes straight from the heart, honesty is literally dripping through every lyric this guy sings. This is why the sound feels so special and convincing, why the guitars sound so bright despite almost complete lack of production, and why the soundscape emits an eccentric and rich in detail vibe all around.

Musically, Frank And Earnest have created a unique sound reminiscent of Attack In Black's debut album, where they combine influences from a wide array of styles and sounds, ranging from Midwestern rock and emotional indie rock to punk rock and singer-songwriter. It's as if The Hold Steady hooked up with the aforementioned band and added relaxed punk vibes to the cocktail. The result is songs that are full of melodies that have potential to make these guys into a cult act over time, but what really elevates them into that status in my book is the breathtakingly good lyricism found across the album. I seldom look into lyrics over melodies but here it's a must, because reading through the booklet while the songs are playing makes it all the more intense experience. Lyrics like "I sought to live like all my Fat and Vagrant heroes, found out their words were lies, still did it again and again and again" are some of the most memorable lines I've heard this year, and that's not even including the utter brilliance of the emotional break-up song "Stick A Form In Me, I'm Done":

"Then you walked in wearing a turtleneck sweater / The bearer of bad news, I thought things were getting better / Then I put my fist through the wall / I knew this fit of rage wouldn't help my cause at all [...] Man that was one hell of a way to say Merry Christmas / now all I can do is sit back and reminisce on all the good times we had / later on that night the house smelled of stuffing / a meal fit for kings but I hungered for nothing / sorry mom, that turkey's not gonna hit the spot"

It's the interplay between lyrics such as these and the musical environment that allows "Old Francis" to lift itself over almost all other contemporary releases for the time being. Moments like in "'87" where the lyrics pause briefly to allow for the guitars to rock out, creating awesome melodic space, which in turn adds real meaning to the lyrics, as if the vocalist/guitarist is living through the emotions through the guitar sound, expressing himself freely and with passion. Then you have "Clever", which starts out like a tortured Chuck Ragan solo effort, or "Mr Holland's Otis", that shares a lot in common vocally with The Hold Steady's "Stay Positive".

I can't think of a better example of when lo-fi production absolutely REIGNS over a better budget one; the emotion is fully preserved, the guitars sound exuberant, and the roughness around the edges sound adds so much character to the songs. Polish it any more and it's not going to have the same emotional and musical impact as now. I'm serious here: any more production and the feeling will be lost. That's why they should really look into Attack In Black's "Marriage", which takes almost exactly the same platform musically and lyrically, but it has been recorded in a real studio environment and they still made it sound just perfect. It's going to be a near-impossible task, but should they succeed, their next EP/album is going to be one of those we'll refer to as "seminal", "legendary" and other power words...although "Old Francis" is already that to this scribe. No exaggeration here.


Download: Addictionary, '87, Stick A Fork In Me, I'm Done, BFF
For the fans of: Attack In Black, The Hold Steady, Chuck Ragan
Listen: Myspace

Release date 07.09.2010

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