Frankie Rose and The Outs - "Candy" (Frankie Rose and The Outs)
More than anything else, Frankie Rose and The Outs’ debut album is produced. Its songwriting is fragmentary — few tracks have more than a line or two of lyrics or more than a couple parts — the musicianship competent and unremarkable, but the record sounds enormous. Dense reverb, chimes and keyboards, ethereal chorus vocals sunk way down in the mix: this album approaches a Spector wall-of-sound as closely as one could conceivably get while lacking the funds for violins and choirs.
Though plenty of bands have spent the last few years burying girl-group songs underneath ’80s shoegaze, this album aims for a professionalism that Rose’s shit-gaze peers might shun. And unlike her erstwhile bandmates Vivian Girls, who claimed ignorance of the bands reviewers accused them of ripping off, Rose definitely knows what she’s mining. “Candy,” for example, if fun, sounds completely calculated, from its initial oh-oh to the cheesy synth that floats over song’s latter part. Every move she makes is so blatantly right that the song ends up treading a line between catchy and contrived.
Over the course of its second half, the record becomes more an exercise in building texture and atmosphere than a regular set of pop songs. “Memo” begins with a quiet, echoing guitar riff, grows louder and noisier as it turns into a massive wordless chorus, and then repeats itself, escalating even more dramatically the second time. One can barely call it a song, but it functions beautifully. “Don’t Tred” seems initially to be a pretty standard, totally enjoyable tarted-up garage rager, but on repeat listens, sounds more like an exemplar of how that kind of song ought to sound. It has only a single kind-of-nonsensical line of lyrics ("don’t tread like me"), and its surf riff is at once perfect and hackneyed, as though demonstrating what the archetype of such a guitar part might be. Perfectly executed dynamics ultimately drive the song.
High female vocals and reverb automatically earn a record the adjective “dreamy,” and Frankie Rose and the Outs deserves the word more than most. It’s hard to tell what (if anything) is happening in so many of its songs; the band focuses instead on nailing and recasting known moods and tactics. Entirely derivative but somehow not obvious, the record is surprisingly — and pleasantly — strange.