Let me start with a confession. I had little idea who Frank Carter was before listening to this album. I keep being told that I’ll love his band. The word is that they’re crazy live and great Punk Rock. A quick bit of research and I realise that Frank Carter was the lead singer with Gallows.
Now, when Gallows released their debut album, I had people telling me the same thing. As someone who has “grown up” with the DIY Punk scene and been an active part of it, I am deeply suspicious when a band is lauded as the saviours of the general genre, who you have never seen, heard, let alone seen listed playing at an all-dayer, benefit, squat or pub gig. Call me elitist but I prefer my saviours to have been paying their dues for a while. When I eventually saw Gallows play live, I was impressed with their energy and their ability to gee up a crowd. No problem… I doffed my cap and agreed they were pretty darn good. So, with that, I approached reviewing the latest album by Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes with enthusiasm and expected something akin to Gallows.
Apologies are due to all for not knowing what to expect through not keeping up with Frank Carter’s career. A music lover who doesn’t know his area inside out makes a poor excuse for a music writer in my book.
So, expecting a hatful of shouty anger what I did get was not Punk or Hardcore. No Drunk-Punk, Street-Punk, Hardcore Punk, no big shouty anthemic choruses, no youth crew singalongs, no grind, no Punk R’n’R, no Math Rock, Post-Punk, D-Beat, Ramonescore or anything that you could dump in any genre of Punk that I know. There’s my disappointment in a nutshell. I was lied to by people who have an MTV / Planet Rock understanding of my musical world.
Still, I must be objective and open minded so here goes.
I can say that the production on this for me is excellent. The fuzz guitar that runs through many of the tracks gives it a stoner rock feel. The opener “Why a Butterfly Can’t Love a Spider” lays down a staccato swagger that struts through the whole affair. Reverb and sustain lay the basis for a perfectly recorded release.
“Heartbreaker” picks up the pace and the drums cut through the guitar to drive it onwards and the off kilter middle eight and strong finish give way to a catchier more electronic based “Crowbar”.
“Angel Wings” splutters and crackles at you from its atmospheric opening seconds, but the pace of it does nothing for me. I can imagine that many will rate this one highly though with its big sound and soaring vocals.
The opening line of “Kitty Sucker” doesn’t feel as contrived as it should and “I’m a Punk Rock renegade, a tattooed muthaf****r who’s been lost for a decade” slides from the initial cheesiness into a sleazy fuzz guitar driven number with some clever lyricism. Probably the best track on the album for me.
What is obvious is that he has a strong voice that soars and cuts across the production. It is smooth where needed and projects at you at all the right moments and leaves space for the instrumentation when needed, whilst all instruments do the same for each other. It really is a strongly recorded album and you’d have tip a nod to all of those involved. I like to think that I’m pretty good at picking up subtle influences, even down to a drumbeat or a delivery of a vocal line. I have to say however that this one beats me. There are no discernible influences and overriding borrowed styles on this and that is a tough play to make.
So, you know what I was expecting but what did I get? Well, I got a hint of Punk, a hint of Stoner-Rock, a tiny bit of emo and all wrapped up in a big fluffy MTV and radio friendly duvet! It isn’t one thing or another. Instead, it’s an amalgam of different shapes and styles of rebellion that is made accessible to the light end of extreme music and the extreme end of the mainstream market. For those dabbling in this pot pouri and for those that follow Frank Carter closely, this album could be a tour de force but then I don’t know what previous offerings they can compare it with. For those like myself, it will undoubtedly, in the words of ‘four lads who shook the Wirral’, irk the purist.
And what could possibly be more Punk Rock than irking the purists among us. More power to yer elbow on that one Frank!
Not my tunes but undoubtedly polished, untarnished by influence and beautifully produced.
I’m off for another listen.
Reviewer: Mark Veitch