Sunday, July 4, 2010
The Brutal Wave - Frank (Just Frank)
The Brutal Wave
Frank (Just Frank)
SCQ Rating: 83%
The Cure debuted Faith a year before I was born and, for the life of me, I’ve never been able to get over it. Every shade of grey born out of that evolution called post-punk – a tonal palette that triggered goth-tinged classics from the likes of Joy Division and Siouxsie and the Banshees – provokes me into a naval-gazing swoon but also reminds that I’m a few decades removed from experiencing that scene as it originally developed. Such a timeline fact has bothered me so because this synthesizer-and-drum machine style of post-punk seems to have lost the lifeblood to deliver any innovative bands worthy of challenging the mainstream. It seems I’ve been looking in the wrong places – in other words, not France – because Frank (Just Frank), the Parisian duo of Anthem and KD, have reinstated post-punk’s drive and mystique with The Brutal Wave.
Although to be accurate, Frank (Just Frank) take their muse from Cold Wave, the sound of late 70s/early 80s post-punk filtered through atmospheric possibilities in chilly guitar, prominent bass and minimal synth. While elements of this genre have been appropriated by French metal bands in a hybrid known as Black Wave, Frank (Just Frank) jump from their experiences in that heavier faction with what they call Brutal Wave - a private, emotional take on Cold Wave’s more uplifting aspects. A bloodletting desperation pokes beneath the surface of these overcast guitar-tapestries, translated despite the dull buzz of bass and French lyrics of ‘Jalousie’ or the poetic sympathies on ‘Mr. Itagaki’. With vocals that call to mind Morrissey but eschew the Mozz's showboating, Frank (Just Frank) alternate between languages to communicate separation from friends and lovers who, as related on ‘Coeur Hante’, have been “cradled away by time’s tide”. Never do these songs sound strung-out by isolation; instead The Brutal Wave deepens its metallic drum-machine and retro electronics with a rich loneliness that comforts when we’ve been abandoned by everything else. I don’t think any other song this year will define or romanticize such a temperament as well as ‘Die In Bed’, with its spritely but dense guitar-work underscoring tortured nights that dream of the impossible touch.
Which brings me back to The Cure. Perhaps more than any other track here, ‘Die In Bed’ unfurls like a Robert Smith composition, how it runs an entire verse and chorus before the vocals rise up, how it’ll lurk suddenly into a shimmering, optimistic momentum. Part of me thinks it would’ve fit nicely on Seventeen Seconds, right before ‘In Your House’, but Frank (Just Frank)’s sound is ultimately too modern, which is a good thing. The Brutal Wave shares an undeniable ancestry with these gorgeous movements that wove through post-punk and doesn’t seek to hide from its history. It’s spot-on that their own ‘Wave acts as title since this full-length debut proclaims post-punk's relevance with such contemporary spirit. The Brutal Wave truly sounds like the dawning of a beautiful resurgence.