February 14, 2004

The Frames "The Road Outgrown"

Irish folk-rockers The Frames have been making music since the early 90s, and though they remain rather unknown outside of their native land, The Roads Outgrown is a wonderful little odds-and-sods collection that's well suited for the curious. This collective has released a dozen singles and several critically acclaimed albums, though they've not released much in America. Thus, to serve as a bit of a primer, The Roads Outgrown consists primarily of B-sides from the past few years, plus an unreleased track or two.

The first thing noticeable about The Frames is singer Glen Hansard's voice. Sweet and forlorn, at times he sounds vaguely like First Edition-era Kenny Rogers. Though the band's overall sound straddles both country and folk, they never really make a commitment to either style. Instead, their blending of both creates a sound that takes from both genres and creates a sound.. Heck, Hansard's sad, emotional crooning even occasionally reminds me of Thom Yorke sans the self-loathing and cold fear of technology.

And the songs? The songs are excellent, mainly because they're never too indebted to any particular style, opting instead for a healthy "try it and see if it works" approach. Sure, such an approach is a risky gamble, but if you're an excellent musician, it can prove to be rewarding. Over these nine songs, they weave a style that's based in folk, country and rock, rewarding the listener with subtle, graceful folk ("Lay Me Down," a beautiful cover of Will Oldham's "New Partner"), rocking indiepop (the very Unrest-like "God Bless Mom"), deep country ("Tomorrow's Too Long") and even some rowdy, seductive Irish rock (the live version of "Fitzcarraldo").

If the purpose of this US-only release is to pique the interest of America, then it's a job well done. After repeated listens to The Roads Outgrown--it's hard not to hit repeat, it's that addictive--I'm certainly wanting to hear more. It's too bad that they've been unknown for so long; hopefully, that will change soon. A fine collection that serves the band well, and will appeal to the new listener and to the longtime fan.

--Joseph Kyle

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