Frank (Just Frank)
The Brutal Wave

Since 2003, Wierd Records has been introducing a select sub-sect of club dwellers to the icy pulse of La Vague Froide through a relaxed release schedule of albums made by those in this clandestine Manhattan cult who weren’t old enough to remember when those initial French explorers were ignored the first time on our shores. Orbiting around a loose definition of Cold Wave, bands like Blacklist, Xeno & Oaklander and Led Er Est have dabbled and designed in the darker corners of minimal synth, not exactly stumbling upon the extant mood associated with those lost and now revived recordings from which Wierd takes its cue. For that matter, neither does The Brutal Wave, the debut from Frank (Just Frank), a record that is not all that brutal in execution, but does manage to extract a feeling from both the lilting celestial orbs and the frozen black nothingness that is the most accessible, and by circumstance, the most enjoyable experience the label has yet offered.

Even amongst the transient histories of duo Chris and Kirti, who come from London by way of the South of France by way of New Jersey, one can see that Frank (Just Frank) are a swirl of influence floating somewhere between the diehard craftsmanship of Wierd and the neo-simulacrum of the glossy ’80s revisionists and college rock twiddlers who inhabit the Captured Tracks label (and consequently are responsible for distributing this release). On the bulk of The Brutal Wave, Frank (Just Frank) juxtaposes a number of familiar elements to create an assemblage of nostalgia, stinging and sighing in places least expected. It’s not wildly indifferent to the early ’80s, but does dwell in retro-futuristic landscapes that are refreshing in an era when the rate of technology is increasing, but simultaneously seems stagnant. Frank (Just Frank) carves out a place where, in order to evolve, electronic music must go back and streamline the past.

As a result of this repurposing and rebuilding, the blueprint remains the same—all of The Brutal Wave is based in crisp drum machines and deep wobbly basslines, only painted with a new coat resembling the pale pinks and silver sheen of the record’s cover. Again, this is an album that’s as sweet as it is sour, and as the lead track “Beneath” displays, is as melancholic as it is shimmering with a stunted hope. Frank (Just Frank)’s accessibility comes in their obvious, yet out of place, reference points. The plucked prismatic guitar notes that wind through standout track “Couer Hante” (which translates to “Haunted Heart”) resemble the Southern Gothic jangle of Peter Buck (circa Reckoning), though as soon as they’re treated with a bed of shadowy synthesizers the environment changes from Athens, Georgia to the Parisian Metro. And even if Faith-era Cure wouldn’t be that much of a stretch for a Xerox of Cold Wave originators, that detached and still sensual lushness gives “Collapse” and “Crisis” a populous power, complete with catching hooks and pseudo-disco rhythms. Pretty as it sounds, the Vague Froide does permeate, especially in the lyrics, where on the latter of those candy-coated new wave reductions the chorus is an ominous repetition of “kill, kill, kill.”

In other spots, noticeable on the shredding amplifications and French vocals of “Le Son du Trottoir,” there is an edge that idolizes Metal Urbain (or conversely, Sigue Sigue Sputnik), giving The Brutal Wave a legitimacy towards authenticity missing in the weepier songs.

If all Frank (Just Frank) can achieve with this album is to attract fans to the roots their label has been nurturing for the better part of seven years, then they’ve succeeded. If they’ve made a record that transcends the genre by wrapping their tentacles around myriad otherlings that exist in the electronic underground, then they’ve triumphed.
Kevin J. Elliott