Douglas Martin’s Dirty Shoes: The Unfuckwithable Resume of Frankie Rose

Given the alarmingly high turnover rate of Vivian Girls drummers, Douglas Martin will make the band’s roster in no time. Even if you merely have a passing interest in the music I write about,...
By    August 27, 2010


Given the alarmingly high turnover rate of Vivian Girls drummers, Douglas Martin will make the band’s roster in no time.

Even if you merely have a passing interest in the music I write about, chances are you’ve heard the name Frankie Rose. Prior to relocating to New York, she played in San Francisco band Shitstorm with two of the members of Grass Widow. As a founding member of Vivian Girls, she was responsible for both their name (taken from the transgender heroines from Henry Darger’s famous art piece) and their most well-liked song (“Where Do You Run To”, from their excellent self-titled record).

Upon their ascent, she left the group to join the equally-great-but-slightly-less-heralded Crystal Stilts (the rare instance of a rock band that does virtually everything right, except maybe enunciation). She then left that group to play drums for Dum Dum Girls for a short stint while writing and recording a record of her own. With a resume that stacked, it’s no surprise that Rose is such a hipster watercooler gossip mainstay (though I’m sure the assholes that peruse Brooklyn Vegan’s comment threads will spend all their 401-K money on Goodwill flannels and Fruit Punch Four-Loko.)

The first thing you will notice about Frankie Rose and the Outs’ self-titled record (out September 21st on Slumberland Records) is that it’s pretty drastically unlike the two bands in which Rose was a creative contributor. It’s slightly closer in scope to the work of Dum Dum Girls, but only in a small handful of ways. The thread between Rose’s new band and her old ones comes in the form of “Girlfriend Island,” a fizzy sugar-rush of a pop tune that sounds like it was pulled from the cutting room floor of the recent recording sessions for Black Tambourine’s career-spanning self-titled anthology (which, appropriately enough, was released on Slumberland– a label formed to release Black Tambourine’s output– earlier in the year). The Black Tambourine influence is augmented by a gorgeously melancholy take on Arthur Russell’s “You Can Make Me Feel Bad”, which makes it clear that Rose is a musician that knows her shit. Aside from these two tracks and maybe the 60’s-pop-referencing “Candy”, Frankie Rose attempts to dip into uncharted waters with her solo debut.

The record begins with its best foot forward with the organ-driven dream-pop of “Hollow Life”, carried by ethereal harmonies and the light tapping of a tambourine in the distant background. On the record, Rose thumbs through a long history of rock music over the course of the record’s eleven tracks, paying homage to the most formative three decades in the genre’s history (obviously the 1960’s through the 1980’s). The catch is that, while most of the music actually from these eras are mostly vocal- and lyric-driven, the lead vocals on Frankie Rose and the Outs are pushed back to where the vocals share equal billing with everything else in the mix, the vocals used just as much as an instrument as the guitars, bass, and drums. On songs like “Memo” and gorgeous closer “Save Me”, this is a strength. However, on other parts of the record, like “Lullaby for Roads and Miles”, the instrumentation is airy to the point where it’s almost superfluous.

The noteworthy thing about Frankie Rose and the Outs is that it almost sounds like a dream-pop record played by a band of a different time, which is something that is not as immediately gripping as the pure pop of “Where Do You Run To” or thrashy girl-group punk of “Damaged” (another Vivian Girls song that she helped write), but provides the same rewards and makes Rose, previously the owner of post-millennial indie-rock’s finest resume, a more-than-worthy proprietor of her own venture.

MP3: Frankie Rose & The Outs-“Girlfriend Island”

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