All About Frank create a unique sound on this debut album that recalls the 90’s for me when a lot of bands were starting to blend alternative and harder elements together. I think of bands like the Smashing Pumpkins, Jane’s Addiction, Last Crack, Love On Ice, and other bands that never wanted to be put into a box of any kind. Your fate with this band will likely rise and fall with the vocal work by Ashley Stone who can certainly do some vocal gymnastics. Overall, my feelings on this album kind of mixed due to my personal tastes, but there are some very good songs on here that do connect with me.
‘All the Way’ serves as the perfect opener to the record as a straightforward hard rocker with my favorite riff on the album. This sits as my second favorite song. Stone really picks his spots on the falsetto which makes it much better and more effective than at other points on the album for me. ‘The First One’ really highlighted to me that the falsetto type vocals don’t do much for me here when they are used frequently. Stone has some awesome texture in his voice, but the higher pitched vocals lose their bite when they are frequently used or are not actually singing words. This song goes into some aggressive early Smashing Pumpkins type bedlam. The title track follows and is my favorite song on the album. It is also a seven-minute epic which is risky, but this is a monster of a song. The electric guitar intro has a haunting melody that is captured perfectly in the vocals by Stone. The production and mix on this one hit the sweet spot too as the drums sound stronger and the guitars have more bite. I would be extremely disappointed if I saw them live and didn’t get to hear this song.
After the high of ‘Follow the Sun,’ the band was really set up for a drop no matter what song came next, but ‘Open Your Eyes’ fares alright with me. It is initially very accessible with a quiet verse and chorus, but there is a sense of boiling intensity happening here that really works for me. The falsetto vocals here sound much better and create a hook with a simple and effective chorus. The intense last verse is my favorite part of the song. Up next ‘Sailing’ also has an acoustic intro and some electric guitar (Russel Harrison) flourishes that I really like. There are moments where I can sense something would sound a lot better if a band had some financial backing to do more in the studio. This album sometimes suffers because the band just does not have the time to do all that I think they want to do. The backing vocals here almost sound like they are droning on at times. The ending of this song and the rest of this album tells you the band has some great ideas and might sound positively huge with more resources. ‘Easy Way Out’ is another highlight from the album. This has a great midtempo feel that had me scribbling down the likes of Jefferson Airplane and thinking of some of the early videos on MTV where bands had been filed in the 60’s and 70’s in some trippy colors that immediately stood out when they were played. The chorus is to the point, snappy, and contagious.
‘Make a Change’ remains a song that just does not connect with me at all. I have tried listening to it a few ways, but this one is just not for me. It starts with some acoustic guitar and an easy going first verse that gives way to some intensity. It is the high pitched vocal section that starts with about a minute to go that just completely misses the mark with me. It has also consistently been the point where I lose all the momentum from the beginning of the album. ‘Birdie’ unfortunately is another one that has just not stuck with me or drawn me in for a deeper listen. I keep catching myself zoning out on this one, which is not helped by its 6 minute running time. ‘On and On’ turns the corner for me as I really felt myself get more interested in what was happening. There is plenty of space for the band to maneuver here. I really like Frank Pirois work on the bass as it sets the mood of the song. The transition to a faster beat by Pete Sims (drums) around the midway point works perfectly on this seven-plus minute epic. In some ways, this one reminds me more of the more experimental material on ‘Love Your Self Abuse’ by Baby Chaos. ‘Sometimes’ closes the album on an alright note, but it doesn’t blow me away.
I really like some of the songs on here and appreciate what the band is doing. As a debut album, I think it establishes the identity of the band and showcases some great strengths that the members have developed over the years in prior bands. I would love to see the band get an opportunity with a bigger budget next time as I think it would have helped. There are only so many things a band can do, especially when you are having to bust your butt to get it done within a tight budget and timeline. I think people will find some enjoyment in the album and maybe the back half of the album will grow on me in time.
‘Follow the Sun’ is available now.