Monday, March 27, 2006

Tracking: The Frames

Household names in their native Ireland, The Frames are still largely unknown throughout most of America. My love for most things British made it imperative that I gave them a listen when I saw them trumpeted as Esquire Magazine's "Best Band You've Never Heard," followed by comparisons to I Wonder Why We Listen to Poets... favorites like Radiohead and Damien Rice.

The band's fifth album, Burn the Maps, released on their own label in Ireland and Australia in early 2005 and later in the U.S. on Anti-, is hailed by the bands' supporters as something of a masterpiece, the long-awaited result of the band's most cohesive song writing and a thematic triumph. I will be the first to admit that such lofty praise makes it difficult for the actual product to measure up, especially if the name of your band isn't Radiohead, and predictably -- perhaps unavoidably -- Burn the Maps falls short.

Though not for the reasons one might expect. On the surface, The Frames make the right poses. They juggle the tension between soft and heavy like a moodier Foo Fighters. The songs that stand out on first listen are arena-rock ready (see "Fake") with the best of the Smashing Pumpkins. The problem is not with the music, per se, but with who it references most closely. The prevailing tags aren't Radiohead, Damien Rice or, getting closer to the root, Doves (though they are there in places), but the Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters and early Nada Surf. That's not a knock, but the '90s rock nostalgia on Burn the Maps gives it a dated, sepia-toned finish.

While the end of "Ship Caught In the Bay" is certainly the band's attempt at "Idiotheque," The Frames are no more Radiohead than "Creep."

Some more time with this album will certainly allow certain songs to establish themselves. "Fake" might go down as one of those songs that comes on with iPod set to suffle and surprise you with how familiar it feels. Maybe one or two others will assert themselves, but I'm not positive -- with a leaning towards music that makes progress from what has already been played -- that Burn the Maps is progressive enough to keep me interested for the long run.

See for yourself:

The Frames || Fake (from Burn the Maps)

Download some live Frames tracks via

(Songs hosted by will be active for until they have been idle for 30 days. Songs are for sampling purposes only. Please support the bands whenever and however possible.)
(Photo from The Frames official Web site.)


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