As real as a scar and as honest as a deathbed confession, Standards, the first full-length release by The Frankl Project, is bittersweet, dark and full of basic, human truth.
The album opens with the track Alive on the Road, an anthem that reflects a desperate need to escape mediocrity. The song sways drunkenly with pounding drums and choruses of “They won’t even know that we’re gone” I can only guess that “they” refer to the friends and family who never thought they would get anywhere, or amount to anything.
Alive on the Road sets the tone for the entire album which is rife with anguished shouts against the status-quo. There is a lot of venom in this album which, at times, can make it a bit uncomfortable to listen to -- but ultimately it is worth the effort.
Lead singer Jake Tippey is not afraid to wail and howl in the style of Ian MacKaye [Minor Threat, Fugazi]. The recording method is likewise raw and honest – many songs appear to have been done in a single take, without overdubs, in an effort to capture some of that lightning-in-a-bottle sense of immediacy that often comes with unabashed exposing of one’s inner-most thoughts and feelings.
Keeping the music moving is Joe Frankl, the drummer, who local music fans will know from his time spent with The Seedy Seeds, and Paul Schroeder whose bass playing is the proper compliment to Frankl and Tippey. The trio often manages to pull together vocal harmonies that are delicate yet haunting with power.
The track My Hands has such a boozy, country swing to it that it could have been lifted from Camper van Beethoven’s songbook. The lyrical imagery is strong and includes such lines as “My hands get so rough she can’t hold on no more.”
The Ottoman is a brutal pop-punk explosion that would make Green Day jealous.
In Beautiful American, The Frankl Project openly questions this nation's value system that seems to have disintegrated since the more innocent days of their youth.
Dissatisfaction at its Finest is a painfully honest ode to using and being used for the sake of convenience - and really not caring.
Similarly, Heart Shapes & Hand Grenades is a desperate confession of longing and wanting to recapture a love that has been lost.
Closing out the album is Life at Sea, a heartfelt plea for something -- anything to take his mind off the pain, the longing, the misery and the helplessness that the previous 11 tracks weren't able to exorcise. The song ends with a benediction of sorts: “May love provide a purpose for your life at sea,” a statement that implies that we are all adrift, each of us looking for whatever it is that will bring us safely home.
Such a brutally honest album as Standards, deserves an equally honest review. At first, I did not care much for this recording. Maybe it is my age; maybe it is my relatively safe and secure, suburban family-man lifestyle -- but it took me three separate tries to get through the complete album.
However, it was the song Chai Bones that grabbed my attention and made me completely reconsider this whole recording. Chai Bones, like the title might suggest, is a song stripped of pretense. It begins with bare bass and drums joined by haunting lyrics:
If I was a stone,
I would roll away from here
Roll away from here,
I would die.
And if I was a stone,
I would sink until the end
Sink until the end of time.
Once I felt like I understood that song, the other tracks opened up to me and I started finding more and more pieces here and there that made me want to listen more closely, to think about and to try to make sense of. Once I did that, I discovered that I really do like this album for what it is – a very personal and very real statement that deserves respect, acknowledgement and appreciation.
This album deserves to be heard.