Clip: The Frames Accept Your Love
The Frames Accept Your Love
Sydney, Australia -- They start off shy. Like maybe it's too easy for them
and they need to make a deeper path into the night, because people here
love them too much already. So it's a soft beginning as singer Glen Hansard
hushes himself into things and laughs a little at his own dramatics, as if
not to be too precious. All the while the loudest thing you can hear in the
room is not his voice or his wildly noble band, but these other pools of
sound spreading out over a heroes' welcome so rowdy it's as if the whole
night is going to be a fight between noise and silence, pools and pools
everywhere rippling with the sound of "shoooosh," "shooooooooooooosh,"
Can love kill love? The audience here at the Metro Theater on November 16
is more than capable of it. They sing every word, cheer every gesture,
swamp the band in worship. It feels wrong, a slobbering embrace, peculiarly
drunken and Irish and sentimental, bucketed in something beyond the music,
a need to laugh and sing so loud it's like some grotesque, out-of-touch,
even violent weeping towards mindlessness. Caught inside it, I begin to
hate the crowd, and yet I know the feeling, the whole Waltzing Matilda Ned
Fucking Kelly fly-your-tattered-flag mood of it.
Introduced to The Frames by their Steve Albini-produced 2001 album, For the
Birds, I'd expected a folky Tindersticks with momentary metallic surges out
of the quiet, a bunch of gloomy recluses locked into tender atmospheres and
odd storms. Instead this is like a Violent Femmes show. Worse still, a
foreshadowing of what a Frames reunion tour might be like in 20 years' time
if this audience manages to devour this great, great band and turn them
into what's expected.
It's just then that The Frames decide to play a new song called "Keepsake."
When they declare they still possess their music and something mysterious
within it that remains purely their own. That in this one moment we might
stop to watch and listen and go searching with them instead of swilling
everything down and punching our fist in the air. That now, now it's time
to think and feel in deeper ways.
This pause into the unknown, this "Let's hold on for a few minutes,"
signals the band really stepping up to the mark. Unlike me though, they
don't lash out at the love before them, they accept it and take it on to
other places. And show what an experience they really are. Songs burst
their shapes into improvisations, citing in sudden rushes of energy the
ecstasy of Van Morrison as Glen Hansard exclaims spiraling mantras of "your
radio your radio your radio" or suddenly rips into Johnny's Cash's "Ring of
Fire": part pop shamanism, part Irish cowboy rumble, plenty of reckless fun.
Hansard is the undeniable star of the occasion: loose and happy rather than
tortured, a shenanigan artist with some quirky origami hand moves darting
their way into a few songs, as well as a deep poetic presence that can't be
denied. It's confronting to see how enamored he is of the love I was
hating, the way he understands and appreciates the crowd without letting
them idolatrize the music. That he is a rare, red-haired Irish bird: comic,
ready to party, serious when it matters, hot with his own talent.
So it is that The Frames don't even come close to drowning in the love I
saw threatening them -- they surf on it, transforming worship into
communion, currents of depression into joy, everything moving them and us
towards freedom in the music. You can hear Yeats and Synge in this
lyrically romantic sound too, a likely lad dreaming straight out of Irish
literature, as well as some unbelievably intense musical dynamics that put
The Frames in the fine company of artists like the Dirty Three, Wild Oldham
and The Necks among others.
It's like the story Hansard tells about driving by a graveyard just before
Christmas and deciding to buy his love a plot. He took her there on
Christmas Day to see his surprise and, he says, highly amused, she was not
at all impressed! There's hardly a dry eye in the house from laughter by
the time he finishes this story and launches in to what became his other
gift, the song "Lay Me Down": "In the hollowed ground by your side." A song
about sneaking back into a graveyard at night after a funeral to be with
the one you loved and lost. 'Tis a strange prettiness he masters for us.
Note: The Frames' excellent live album, Set List, which was released in
other parts of the world last year, will see release in the U.S. on
February 24 on the Anti label. -- Mark Mordue [Friday, January 30, 2004]