Escape not simple for Frankie Rose

September 28, 2013 

"Herein Wild" by Frankie Rose.


Frankie Rose comes partway down to earth on her second solo album, “Herein Wild.”

Her debut, “Interstellar,” announced her departure from the girl-group-meets-garage-rock reinvention that she helped instigate as a member of Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls and with her own band in 2010, Frankie Rose and the Outs. “Interstellar” moved toward the 1980s, with synthesizers enfolding the guitars and clean, ethereal reverb supplanting fuzztone, while the lyrics were often abstract and faraway, gazing from a distance.

“Herein Wild” starts, instead, with the crashing drums and distorted guitar chords of “You for Me.” The song heads for a chorus that admits, “Time on my own, time on my hands, couldn’t be true” – though as major chords surge behind her, she sees a chance to change: “You for me, could be what I was waiting for.”

Through her many bands, Rose has held onto certain pop principles. The girl-group foundations of verse, chorus and bridge suit her just fine. Her melodies are always crisply defined by hooks that are distributed between riffing guitars and her high, airy voice.

Rose and her co-producer and synthesizer expert, Michael Cheever, haven’t moved that far from the sound of “Interstellar.” The steady eighth-note beats, the rounded bass tones and the halos of keyboards still openly echo the Cure and New Order. (The album reaches back to remake a 1985 song by the Damned, “Street of Dreams,” though it trades new-wave guitars for synthesizers.)

But “Herein Wild” slightly dispels the haze of Rose’s debut. A flesh-and-blood string section sometimes replaces keyboards, and the lyrics are less remote. Songs like “The Depths” and “Sorrow” struggle against despair, and the nervous guitar tremolos, galloping beat and choirlike voices of “Heaven” are contemplating death, possibly suicide: “Here it is easy to see how an end would be rest.” Rose’s pop confections aren’t simple escapes.

Jon Pareles, New York Times

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