Release Date: May 5, 2014
Record label: AED Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
As a member of Scottish rock royalty, Roddy Frame has always been at one remove from his peers; somewhat inscrutable, his motivations during the glory years of Aztec Camera were often unclear – especially when veering between the crystal clear teardrop pop of “Love” and the cluttered studio indulgence of “Frestonia”, Frame even allowed his jazz inflected rock n’ roll to be mauled by Mark Knopfler on (the underrated) “Knife”. In the years since his retirement of the Camera name, Frame has shown more consistency as a songwriter and, despite not releasing a studio album since 2006, has kept his cult status afloat via live recordings and occasional but instantly legendary concerts. On his fourth solo album, Frame is concerned primarily with change; it’s all travel, transition, movement and departure.
The dour, economically ravaged Scotland of the early 1980s witnessed a sudden, incongruous explosion of impeccably crafted, literate but sunny jangle-pop that belied the pervading gloom north of the border as Thatcherism tightened its grip. Emerging alongside other noted names like Orange Juice and Lloyd Cole And The Commotions was the impossibly youthful Roddy Frame, who with his Aztec Camera band mates was already recording singles for Postcard Records at the tender age of 16. A series of critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums followed, culminating with 1987’s Love, which gave Frame a Top 3 single with the soaring Somewhere In My Heart.
And so, it’s the return of Roddy the Scottish minstrel. Except that it’s not a return but rather Roddy building on a 12-month period when his reputation has rarely been so vertiginous. Frame has not been prolific with his output over the years, but 2013-14 has witnessed an unusually busy bout of activity from him. Last year marked the 30th anniversary of Aztec Camera’s landmark album High Land Hard Rain, and a small number of live UK performances by Frame to coincide with it.
As the driving force behind Aztec Camera, Roddy Frame was one of 80s pop's great auteurs, the combination of graceful melodies and intelligent lyrics bracketing him with the likes of Paddy McAloon and Edwyn Collins. His first solo album in eight years – and fourth overall – has its fair share of highlights, the likes of Into the Sun and The Other Side recalling past triumphs; his knack for a memorable, soaring chorus undiminished by time. Things are less compelling when the tempo drops, as on the undistinguished Rear View Mirror, but this is a welcome return nonetheless.
Roddy Frame quiets things down a bit on Seven Dials, his fourth and strongest solo efforts to date. It’s right up there with some of his decades-old work fronting Aztec Camera. It should be noted, however, that the record is a slow built; one that will likely take a few listens to finally grab the listener. But when it does take hold, these songs are hard to shake loose.