Album: Frankmusik, Complete Me, (Island)
To be completely Frank, it's digital pop at its very best
Sunday 12 July 2009
Funny, isn't it, how a shift in emphasis can completely alter meaning. Place it on the first word, and Vincent Frank's album title sounds like a plea, revealing the underlying neediness of the performer.
Put it on the second (and imagine a ghostly definite article at the start), and it reads like a cockily premature greatest-hits collection. If pop stars can be characterised psychologically by a combination of insecurity and egomania, then Frankmusik is destined to become one of the greats.
This oft-dazzling debut, which does indeed frequently feel like a best-of, kicks off with "In Step", the tale of a pretty boy scenester whose face is all over the fash mags at 19 but who, by 23, is still hanging around the same clubs and losing his edge to the younger kids. It's a significant memento mori to Frank, now 23 himself, and a telling insight into the determination not to be left on the shelf that motivates this electro pop upstart.
There's something thrilling about catching one of these autonomous auteurs while they're still so driven (though not yet in the chauffeured sense). Unlike so many players in his field, who settle for easy and disingenuous lo-fi, the skinny Croydonian – surely showbiz's most surprising heterosexual since Lionel Blair – reaches for grandeur. (He worships at the symphonic altar of ELO.)
Not that Complete Me lacks the human touch: several times, charmingly, the former beatboxer appears to do his vocal echoes ("sorry but did I never mention-tion...") himself without technical assistance. It is, however, an overwhelmingly mechanical animal: there's a waspish buzz about the shrill synths, and a cleanliness and discipline about the choppy staccato production that puts Frank alongside the very best digital pop of 2009 (Little Boots, La Roux).
He isn't above borrowing: "Time Will Tell" samples MARRS' "Pump Up the Volume" and "When Your Around" (whose title offends the grammatical sensibilities like no other since "Round Are Way" by Oasis) is essentially a handbag house reworking of The Stranglers' "Golden Brown". But Frank has, as the title suggests, given it his all. All he needs now is for you to make him complete.
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