Agony Shorthand

Monday, September 15, 2003
A-FRAMES : “A-FRAMES 2”…..Second winner in a row from this Seattle “blank-wave”/ garage punk combo, despite a ridiculously overblown robotic persona that has had me teetering between loving them like brothers and laughing at them mercilessly. So let’s start with the good: just like on their debut, the A-FRAMES play tight, vibrant and raw electro-punk without any actual electronics. They are cold heartless drones mining their trade in a barren, uncaring world, and they’ve got the Joy Division-esque titles (“Archaeology”, “Sensation”, “Statement”) to prove it. And they rock the fuck out. Just to pick a couple of the standouts – “Modula” and “Futureworld” are two of the hottest slices of clanging, aggressive rock and rock I’ve heard in a while, and there’s no doubt that this set have got to really tear it up live. They’ve got the choppy, staccato burst of guitar noise thing down, and every track has got a riff that’ll worm its way into your noggin but good. There is very little (if any) filler material spread amongst this disc’s 15 tracks, either, which is pretty goddamn rare. I would definitely peg the A-FRAMES closer to the stomping garage rock side of the fence than toss them in the retro new-wave camp, and they’re about a dozen times more creative and talented than the still-likeable but more synthetic LOST SOUNDS. They’re helping to take a staid genre to a pretty exciting place.

The not-so good? The haphazard use of every five-dollar scientific word in the book might strike some folks as utterly preposterous, and when delivered in this loony robot voice straight out of 1950s monster movie, well, it’s hard not to take a step back and wonder if this might just be a bit embarrassing to be caught liking. In fact, the guy singing reminds me of a California surfer brah trying to trade his natural, god-given Jeff Spicoli voice for the imagined voice of a tormented man made of bolts and steel. Everything is sung as if there were dashes between every syllable (“Au-to-mat-tic / She’s-er-ra-tic” is one such couplet). Pretty bold. You know what? You can laugh all you want – I still think these guys rule. I’ll Jukebox Jury them in a decade or so and see if I feel the same way in my forties.