CULTURE

Almost famous, always respected, and still persisting

Irish band The Frank and Walters, who are playing one show in Athens this week, seemed destined for big things when they surfaced a decade ago, but despite the overall worth of their dignified pop material, as well as early signs of commercial promise, the act has remained confined to the fringe. In 1991, the band, which consists of three friends from Cork – vocalist Paul Linehan, guitarist Niall Linehan, and drummer Ashley Keating – emerged in impressive fashion with three EPs, simply titled «EP1,» «EP2,» and «EP3,» which were all named Single of the Week in either NME or Melody Maker, the influential UK music publications. Not long afterward, their debut album in 1992, «Trains, Boats and Planes,» reached number 36 in the British charts. But in terms of commercial success, that was as far as The Frank and Walters went. Presenting themselves in ludicrous stage costumes during that era’s self-regarding «Britpop» scene to support their first album, The Frank and Walters then disappeared for no less than half a decade, or the time it took to make and release their follow-up album, «Grand Parade.» Considering the rate at which the sound of contemporary pop music seems to be changing, at least as fast as computer-generation evolution (this, needless to say, has, as in most other fields, made a huge impact on the production techniques and eventual sound of today’s prevailing pop styles), the five years it took for The Frank and Walters to come up with their follow-up album was just too long a period for the band’s freshness. Effectively, the band’s second attempt, which did echo its early-1990s predecessor, arrived amid a radically changed scene. Under rapidly changing conditions, being out of place can be inevitable, and is both acceptable and respectable should an artist feel bent on honing his or her way. But for this band’s commercial prospects, and those of many others, the combination of slowness and persistence proved disastrous. For their most recent album, «Glass» (the group’s fourth), which was released early last year, The Frank and Walters modified their sound without turning their backs on older ways. Produced by Rob Kirwan and Flood, who has worked with U2 and Depeche Mode, both forward-looking veterans, «Glass» contains a subtler guitar presence that makes way for keyboards, a wider musical palette, and overall, a more dance-oriented style. Commenting on the band’s feelings about its lack of chart success since the debut album, Ashley, the act’s drummer, told fans in a Q&A session over the Internet just prior to the release of «Glass» that «it is kind of frustrating when you see the crap that’s in the charts but in a way it can spur you on to make better records.» Ironically, at the time of their early chart success, The Frank and Walters had headlined bills with a couple of relatively unknown bands as support acts. One of them, Suede, attracted quite a following soon afterward, while the other, Radiohead, nowadays ranks as one of the world’s biggest-selling rock bands. Supporting The Frank and Walters, it seems, can be a sure route to success for aspiring bands. There’s more trivia: An unknown musician who had yet to make his fortune, Noel Gallagher of the best-selling Oasis, not only worked as a roadie for the Irish band, but later also cited this experience as a major reason for forming his own. He told the Irish Mirror that had it not been for The Frank and Walters, he would never have formed Oasis. To that, Ashley responded in the aforementioned Q&A, «It’s always nice to hear that your music has had an effect on someone, whether it be a huge star like Noel or an inanimate object like a plank of wood or some seaweed – it’s all the same to me.» On the same subject, in one of its biographies, the band was less polite. «The Frank and Walters,» it noted, «would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize.» The Frank and Walters will be performing on Friday, January 11, at 9.30 p.m., the An Club, 13-15 Solomou St, Exarchia.