BY STEVE WILSON
Frankie Rose’s music is representative of a sub-genre that’s arisen in recent years. Characterized by an embrace of the girl group sensibility of the Sixties married to dense, distorted guitar sounds derived from the Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine. And the girl groups Rose evokes are not the character driven hard girls the Shangri-Las portrayed, but the pastel seraphim of the Paris Sisters.
A group like La Sera lies on the extreme soft focus edge of the idiom, whereas Kirsten Gundred’s Dum Dum Girls punk it out. Frankie Rose, whose aesthetic falls between the two, served briefly with the Dum Dums (and the Vivian Girls, and Crystal Stilts), and live her sets are hardy affairs, closer to the Dum Dum Girls, sometimes flattering groups like Best Coast given Rose’s way with frothy pop charms.
Rose asserted her own distinct take on the genre with Interstellar last year. Her new recording Herein Wild follows very much in its path. Rose’s combination of chiming twelve-string guitars and impressionistic strings is at once full and ethereal. If, inspired by Phil Spector’s wall-of-sound production style, Brian Wilson essayed a “teenage symphony to God” with Smile, Frankie Rose, nearly fifty years later, is delivering teenage tone poems and seductive, romantic miniatures. This is especially so with Herein, wherein the song craft, compared to Interstellar, sometimes surrenders to pure sound.
Some tracks like “You For Me” have a sludgier, punk edge. “The Depths” even evokes the urgency of Joy Division. Among Herein’s beautifully composed melodies – “Cliffs as High,” with its strings and block piano chords has a positively Wilson-esque tune, while a cover of The Damned’s “Street of Dreams,” with its West Side Story meets The Who Sell Out vibe, culminates in serene sounds not out of place on Miles Davis’s In a Silent Way. “Heaven” evokes Nuggets-pop and the 13th Floor Elevators in particular, where “Question Reason” sounds like a Stereolab excursion.
In fact, it’s the extraordinary variety within a prescribed palette that distinguishes Frankie Rose. In the grand scheme of things this is not epochal work. In the world of rock ‘n’ roll this is to the Rolling Stones or Bruce Springsteen as Chausson or Bridge were to Wagner or Mahler. But those lighter composers had their charms and pleasures, and with Herein Wild so does Frankie Rose.
DOWNLOAD: “Street Of Dreams” (Damned Cover), “Cliffs as High”