Frankie Rose and the Outs – s/t

Rating: ★★★★ ·

With all the great lo-fi bands floating around, something is to be said about making a space pop album that doesn’t sound like all the rest. Frankie Rose should know this the best out of anyone, as she has been a member of many successful pop bands herself:  Crystal Stilts and Vivian Girls. Other bands cast aside, Frankie proves her knowledge of this craft with this semi-solo project.

The album starts out on a gradual pace, with only bare instrumental to begin, slowly submersing you into each layer of the opening song. First heard is the quivering feedback, which holds steady until Frankie Rose comes in to soak the song in a tone of wonder and bemusement that her echoed vocals provide. Next, sleigh bells are added for an element of percussion that carries the music slowly on, as Frankie repeats the same simple words, over and over. Is this the same person who was apart of bands that brought light and jangly pop songs to the table? Apparently not, as “Hollow Life,” is a deeper and completely different sound than anything Frankie and any of her previous accompaniments have put out before. Different, but overwhelmingly good.

That being said, this solo effort is not a complete turn from Frankie’s prior works. “Little Brown Haired Girls,” shoots out of the gate with driving drum beats, crashing cymbals and girlish gang vocals; sort of a combination of elements from the first two songs. You have the softer vocals from “Hollow Life,” mixed with a more prominent guitar part that “Candy,” the song in between these two, brings. It is a sure sign that there are still excellent quality pop beats to be enjoyed on this album.

 The rest of the album mostly follows suit from these two songs. There are softer songs such as “Lullabye For Roads And Miles,” which is as expected from its title, reliant on the lack of the quick drum beat and more focused on leaving a little emptiness to carry the song instead. And there are instances of superior jams, like “Girlfriend Island.” On this number, some la la la’s add to the catchiness of the guitar and proves this to be a song that is difficult to stay still to; it is impossible for me to stop tapping along with that irresistible drum beat.

 From this point, Frankie Rose And The Outs move through the rest of the songs quickly and wrap up their first full length album gracefully. They successfully combine a new hollow sound with the well loved, classic low-fi pop that bands like Vivian Girls are known for. With the slow moving songs so effervescent and the fast paced songs reminiscent of the sunny summer days not too far gone, there isn’t a more perfect time for this album to debut; at the brink of fall.

The Vaselines – Sex With an X

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Twenty years ago, after bridging the gap from small, unknown Glaswegian noise pop group, to indie stars, The Vaselines broke up, leaving their fans in awe of why a band at their prime would dissolve so quickly after their sudden success. Now, they’re back, twenty years wiser and hoping to make an album that holds the distinct and fast sound from their previous release, while adapting it ever so slightly so that it might fit in with the current music scene. It is a feat that may prove easier said than done.

After a brief, lullaby-esque, introduction, “Ruined,” picks up right where The Vaselines left off; rocking and rolling. With low grinding guitars and steady drums, pounding away in the background, Eugene Kelly and Frances Mckee harmonize to tell us the ever positive reminder that “you’ll die, we’ll all sigh.” While not the most upbeat of lyrics, the ever present drums juxtapose with said lyrics to balance the song, a great start to the album. Following this is the title track, which is also a song with a darker tone lyrically, yet comes across almost cheery. Mckee’s honey-sweet vocals serve as the temptation to which Kelly’s self deprecating words try so desperately to get away from, yet gives into at the end of each chorus, just as the listener gives into the enticing empathy of feeling completely controlled by desires.

Then, Sex with an X takes a turn to a slower pace, and begins to lose me.

At four minutes and thirty four seconds, “The Devil’s Inside Me” seems to hang on about two minutes entirely too long for a song that doesn’t have that much meat musically, or lyrically. Next, they follow up with another fast paced song, which disappointingly sounds much too similar to the title track, only without the depth and hooks that dueling vocals in the earlier song provided. This is the pattern for the next two songs “Overweight But Over You” and “Poison Pen.”

“I Hate the 80’s,” comes with some form of change: a layer of tambourine and high pitched organ for parts of the song, which serves as a sort of awakening from the lull that the past four songs doled out. This then leads up to “Mouth to Mouth,” which holds a tone of desperation that carries this song into the distinct category where “Ruined,” and “Sex With an X” reside. It has a strong build up to the chorus, yet doesn’t feel too worn by the end of the song.

Sadly, following the ninth song on this album, it feels almost as if The Vaselines have given up, with three songs left. “Whitechapel” drags on for a little too long like “The Devil’s Inside Me,” followed by another attempt to pick up the pace before closing the album with the same melody in which it began.

In the end, there just isn’t enough depth to this album. Yes, my feet are tapping vigorously and the lyrics are pretty damn catchy, but it is too difficult to keep all the songs from running together in my head. This is what makes Sex With An X a good collection of songs, but not a cohesive album that I will want to listen all the way through repeatedly. I applaud The Vaselines in their attempt at a comeback, but I am bored by the lack of variation that seemed to get lost with the passage of such a long period of time.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/The-Vaselines-Sex-With-An-X.mp3]

Download: The Vaselines – Sex With An X [MP3]

Review written by Nicole Baumann

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