| The Frank|
CD review: EVERYTHING IS NORMAL – 3 BEERS
By Dan Brisebois
With so much of the ‘new music’ today being less than memorable, Red Deer’s The Frank are a refreshing change. Count on 4 young musicians in their early 20’s far away from the media centers telling them how to do things to remind us how to really rock the house. Formed in 1997, they’ve steadily grown a cult following in the central Alberta region for their unique approach to rock. The band consists of original members Denver Swainson on guitars & vocals, Allan Keith on bass and drummer Will Gilgan. Sara Page and her guitar joined last year to a make it a quartet.
They released their first INDEPENDENT disc – EVERYTHING IS NORMAL in 1999. Packing a powerful punch, it takes you on a fun joyride of some of the most unique interpretations of a variety of musical influences. The lead off “Synoptical Vicissitude” has a raw energy I’d almost forgotten existed. “Breakfast Lunch and Beer” shifts gears from a mellow blues number to Nirvana-like extremes so abruptly it’ll tear you out of your seatbelt. “Thieved” and “No Bees” are what will likely turn out to be only the ‘rough drafts’ of songs we’ll eventually hear on the radio in a couple of years. Like the band itself, first thought that comes to mind is ‘all kinds of potential’. If there’s a term for Alberta-grunge, it’s ‘frank’.
The group also displays great versatility – a testament to their wide array of influences, such as the ballads “So Many Plans” and “Everyone Around You” and ‘Soundgarden meets Beach Boys’ feel of “Let You Down”. The jazz-twinged instrumental “Synthetic Pants” and quirkiness of “Smiling John” further cement The Frank as one of Alberta’s most diverse – and unique groups. But it’s the brashness of “Hey Earl”, “Osovok” and “Lost The Best” – a tribute to Jimi Hendrix where they seem to feel most at home.
They just released their EP follow-up, 3 BEERS. The songs on it are literally a continuation of EVERYTHING IS NORMAL. “Lost Cause” is my personal favourite of the 3. Like so much of The Frank’s material, I can’t help but think of them as a bunch of kids learning to ride bikes. They don’t fall down – and with the right help they’d be tearing up the race tracks. “In Your Head” has an infectious groove with a ‘Saturday afternoon jam feel’ to it. “Blackfalds Revisited” …. well, you’d have to know where Didsbury and Donalda are to get that one …. nonetheless, it contains some of the most spirited fretwork to hit the INDEPENDENT scene in quite awhile.
The Frank has all it takes to at least get noticed by the major labels – a nice serving of a little bit of everything – and something for everyone. All they need is a chance to serve up their healthy variety on the rock and roll menu to everyone. Both discs are available on their website and have sound clips – check them out – you’ll come back for seconds.
The Frank are beyond a shadow of a doubt one of Alberta’s hottest unsigned talents. Hailing from Red Deer, the band’s founders Denver Swainson and Sara Page handle guitars, and are rounded out with Will Gilgan on drums and bassist Joe Miller.
Formed in ’97, they’ve paid their dues and earned a name for themselves by serving what’s arguably one of the most energetic live shows on the circuit today. Along with being featured on several independent compilations and outside projects, they practically own central Alberta. They’ve shared the stage at some of the province’s biggest festivals with some of Canada’s other hottest names, including Default, Headstones and Carson Cole.
It was their chance meeting with Cole at 2004’s Big Ass Border Bash in Cold Lake, Alberta that’s led to The Frank’s fifth independent release, BLACKFALDS REVISITED. An all-out assault on your senses, Cole took the band under his wing in the “Chicken Coup,” and the result is easily one of the best new releases of the year.
The title track is actually a carry-over from a previous release, as are “Lost The Best”, “In Your Head” and “Lost Cause”. Cole’s polishing of the songs is indicative of his input with the band as a whole that’s matured The Frank. His experience has given the band the confidence to expand their sound and break new ground with numbers like “Slick Your Hair Back”. Sort of a revved-up, blues-based rockabilly number, the slide guitar work and campy percussion prove The Frank break any barricades of being labeled.
The driving energy of originals like “Coupons,” “Lost The Best,” and “Driving” pulsates through your veins and lets you know Canadian rock is doing live and well. They showcase the dual guitar attack of Swainson & Page, some of the most spirited fret work on the scene today, and are indicative of the entire album, and the band in general.
Along with “Whiskey,” “Black Coffee” and “Get Out,” the band’s maturity has come full circle. Updated versions of Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” and Neil Young’s classic “Cinnamon Girl” are a perfect example of the band’s versatility and wide range of influence. “Cinnamon Girl” in fact is only one of a number of tracks that just have to be played loud, and often.
The Frank have raised the bar with BLACKFALDS REVISITED, and is a hard act to follow, making them bona-fide contenders as “the next big thing.” They’re ready for the next level. And a year from now I’ll be saying BLACKFALDS REVISITED was one of the best independent discs of the year.