Release Date: Feb 21, 2012
Record label: Slumberland
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Pop, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival, Noise Pop
Frankie Rose is a pop sophisticate with a knack for reading the infinitesimal trendlines coursing through Hiplandia. A few years ago, with Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls, she was early on the girl-group punk boomlet. Now solo, she's rocking the current micro-vogue for Eighties shoegaze pop: guitar-synth swirls, paper-thin New Wave bass surge, space-waif vocals like a spring breeze that barely billows your window curtains.
Frankie Rose spent a few years kicking around the Brooklyn jangle-pop scene before striking out on her own: As the most charismatic member of Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts, and Dum Dum Girls, she was a reliable bolt of onstage electricity enlivening the often noncommittal presences around her. It was pretty clear, even then, that she was eventually destined for bigger things, but her first solo record, recorded under the name Frankie Rose and the Outs, still felt constrained by a reflexive sort of cool-kid slouch. Between that record and Interstellar, she has dropped the pretense of a backing band entirely, and is recording simply as "Frankie Rose." The implicit point is clear: This time around, she's going for it.
No more the fuzzy-scuzzy scrappiness of Rose's former garage rock bands Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts and Dum Dum Girls: her second solo release is indebted to the bold synths and tight guitars of 80s new wave. Unlike the Cure et al, these sounds are softened and sweetened by Rose's gossamer voice, which has been multitracked into layers of shimmering harmonies. Add pealing melodies and the sort of exquisite production that binds every element into a deliciously immersive wash, and you have a record to get lost in.
What's been heralded as a bold step into the unknown for Frankie Rose isn't quite the giant leap one might have expected. After serving in the forward regiments of the Brooklyn indiepop army – with Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts, Dum Dum Girls, and leading her own outfit, the Outs – she has made a stylistic step sideways, into dreampop, shoegaze, call it what you will. That was always a first cousin to indiepop, so the second track here, Know Me, could – with the guitars amped up and the dreaminess dialled down – be a Vivian Girls song.
Frankie Rose proved herself to be the restless type during the second half of the aughts. Upon her arrival in New York City, Rose embarked on a stint in Vivian Girls here, a jaunt with Crystal Stilts there, and an interlude with Dum Dum Girls tucked somewhere in that timeline. But each time she left a band scrambling to find a drummer to take her place, it never seemed like an issue of incompatibility.
Frankie RoseInterstellar[Slumberland Records; 2012]By Jon Blistein; February 21, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetStating the obvious, but essential: Frankie Rose has done a lot of growing/improving/learning/whatever between Frankie Rose & The Outs’ 2010 self-titled record and the Brooklyn musician’s new effort, Interstellar. The self-titled exhibited Rose’s excellent songwriting, but it sometimes languished in that catchy, sure, but all-too-familiar lo-fi, jangly, 60s-surf-rock revival bug that was going around. Not that those sounds aren’t present on Interstellar, but throughout the record they intertwine and interact with dense, lush synths.
Ex-Dum Dum Girls, Crystal Stilts, and Vivian Girls member Frankie Rose certainly has an impressive pedigree. On her 2010 self-titled debut album with ad hoc band The Outs, she cribbed liberally from the oeuvres of her former bands, crafting a record laden with copious reverb and Spector-esque girl group hooks. It was a decent effort, but at times came up creatively fallow, as the formula she tinkered with was a bit staid and formulaic.
After playing in a succession of noise pop bands and making her own very good noise pop record (2010's Frankie Rose and the Outs) Frankie Rose decided to make a change. She chucked out the echoing drums, the surf guitars, and the wall of reverb-soaked vocals, and with the help of producer Le Chev (a onetime member of Fischerspooner), set about giving her sound an overhaul. On 2012's Interstellar, there is barely any noise to be found; instead it's got a cleaned up sound with plenty of space between instruments, lots of shiny synths, and an overall sonic power that her debut only hinted at.
Frankie Rose has been a part of a bunch of bands—Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls, etc.—that deal in their own sort of nostalgia, but her second solo record, Interstellar, steps into its own corner of the past. Rose channels the synthier side of the ‘80s new romantics to craft something with an expansive dreamy feel throughout. The album is both wide-open and airy, something that, in the wrong hands, could be spun of thin, sugary layers like cotton candy.
The unbridled progression of Frankie Rose from every Brooklyn lo-fi band's favourite session drummer to reputable singer/songwriter continues at a relentless pace. Having first come to the attention of UK audiences behind the kit as a touring member of Crystal Stilts, subsequent spells keeping time with the Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls almost pre-empted a guessing game of 'where will she turn up next?' The answer, of course, would be fronting her own band. While the majority of 2010's self-titled long player Frankie Rose And The Outs seemed to confirm that her latest guise was little more than a continuation of her former ones only with a different singer, one or two songs hinted that a sea change may be just around the corner.
If you're familiar with Brooklyn's Frankie Rose at all, it's most likely through her work as a drummer for hazy pop bands Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts, and Dum Dum Girls, where she most often kept a workmanlike, metronomic rhythm. She stepped out front-and-centre with 2010's Frankie Rose & The Outs, where she unveiled a soft and melodious voice buried in the same clouds of reverb as the vocalists of her other projects. Moving from Memphis Industries to indie-pop institution Slumberland, Interstellar sees Rose drop the band credit from her name and release a second album of—surprise!—tasteful dream pop.The dominant texture on Interstellar is silk, whether it's in washing synths or heavily manipulated caresses of guitar.
After her sterling stints in [a]Dum Dum Girls[/a] and [a]Vivian Girls[/a] you might expect something a little bubblegum, a little garage, a little psych from [a]Frankie Rose[/a]’s solo venture. Not so. The Brooklyn-based Jackie-of-all-trades’ new LP is cosmic planetarium pop: it’s 2001: A Space Odyssey with slinky shoegaze riffs and Drive score electro musings, although it is thankfully saved from severity by Rose’s fittingly floral vocals.Yet as bloody lovely as the fluttering ‘Pair Of Wings’ and spaghetti-Western rumble of ‘Moon In My Mind’ are, there’s a certain lack of substance throughout the album which isn’t fully covered up by Rose’s elegant stoner shimmying.[i]Leonie Cooper[/i] .
Frankie Rose has made it clear that she doesn't want to be defined by the bands she used to play with, yet the erstwhile drummer of Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls did little to distance herself from those projects on her 2010 solo debut. On her sophomore album, though, Rose has left behind the girl-groupisms, the fuzz and the Outs (her former backing band), replacing them with the stylish synth and jangle pop of the 80s underground. The shift in direction suits her.
Frankie Rose is an artist constantly on the move. Since the mid-noughties, Rose has been rather prolific, serving as a founding member of noise pop outfits Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls, and Crystal Stilts, all before going solo with 2010’s Frankie Rose and the Outs, ditching the lo-fi sound of her previous bands in favor of a reverbed take on the harmony-laden 60’s AM pop sound. Two years later, Rose returns, sans her touring band the Outs, with Interstellar.
Interstellar is the latest release with Frankie Rose’s name in the credits, and it is also the only one that can truly be called her album. She had a brief stint with Dum Dum Girls, longer ones with Crystal Stilts and Vivian Girls (where she penned the group’s best song, Where Do You Run To), and top billing on her record with The Outs just two years ago. Interstellar sounds nothing like any of those bands, even Frankie Rose and the Outs.
‘Know Me’ left me somewhat bamboozled when it popped up on my Hype Machine last month; who was this Frankie Rose and what had she done with the real Frankie Rose? Here was a compelling pop paragon of speedy beats, carefree bass rolls and Marr-esque axe jangles, and one of the catchiest songs released in months. It was immersive, icy and genuinely mesmeric. But where was all the distortion?‘Interstellar’ is an outright pop record because Rose was tired of the plenitude of 80s-aping girl-pop-indebted rock bands playing clear-cut three-chord garage tunes in and around her now native Brooklyn.
Having lived through the Madchester era as a teenager, I can recall the rush of excitement as momentum gathered, a sound coalesced and a defining period – for better and worse - in pop culture unfurled before my eyes and ears. As a Mancunian, I was initially plumped with civic pride, but as the weeks and months passed the downsides to a 'music scene' slowly became evident. People began to dress in the same way and bands began to sound as if everything needed a loping beat and a flash of laddish psychedelia.
Rose’s strength and versatility as a composer shines through on this second LP. Noel Gardner 2012 Prior to Interstellar, her second album, Frankie Rose had toiled in a niche of modern indie-rock which was starting to appear saturated. Moreover, part of the blame for the proliferation of the style in question – sweet’n’sour confections of girl-group harmony-pop and Jesus and Mary Chain-style guitar feedback – could be laid at her door.
Sometimes, musical reinvention can be a vexing affair – just check out any piece of Metallica’s 1990s discography. Diehard fans are still trying to purge their memories of the heavy metal band’s placating power ballads and slapdash forays into alternative rock. Every now and then though, an aural facelift is nothing short of embarrassing.
When former Dum Dum/Vivian Girl Frankie Rose offers to take us on a cruise down the Interstellar Highway on the opening track of her solo debut, it’s hard to remember a more enticing proposition. Low-end organ rumbles and swells with the deep black grandiosity of the night. Synthetic celestial twinkles tease the playful exploration to come. And when the tribal drum crash hits a minute in, Rose’s gorgeous multi-track vocals plummet like a meteor shower toward the tingling terra firma of our brains.
Frankie Rose's first solo effort, credited to Frankie Rose & the Outs, did little to distance the one-time Vivian Girls and Crystal Stilts beat-keeper from her former gigs. Despite some nice '60s girl group flourishes, the album generally felt like one of many lo-fi indie pop records flooding the blogosphere. Second time out, Rose abandons the sparse reverb of the '60s for an overindulgence in the synths and pounding drums of the '80s, which wouldn't sound out of place on an M83 record.