Sunday 25 February 2018

Review: The Frank and Walters at The Academy, Dublin

Ed Power

Ed Power

In the summer of 1997 The Frank and Walters released one of the greatest Irish albums of the decade.

But they did so at the very moment heart-on-baggy-sleeve alternative rock was crashing out of fashion – obliterated by the triple horror show of end-of-the-party Britpop, rap-metal and the Spice Girls.

Grand Parade consequently fell on indifferent ears. It didn’t help that the band’s one-time cheerleaders in the British music press were busy fawning over Oasis. The Franks had been downgraded from underdog darlings to naff eccentrics and a fantastic LP risked slipping between the cracks

Twenty years later, nobody cares about Limp Bizkit and the Spice Girls are long since relegated to one of those “what were we thinking?” anomalies in the culture. The Franks, however, endure and on a night of pre-Christmas panic on the streets of Dublin, were reprising Grand Parade in its entirety.

With the quartet dressed in Kraftwerk shades of red and black, they pinged between the heart-on-sleeve indie of Tony Cochrane – distilled essence of their native Cork – and the hollowed-out melancholia of How Can I Exist.

These songs underlined the record's breadth and ambition (the group had toiled on it for five years, determined not to deliver a facsimile of their first album). The connecting thread was frontman Paul Linehan's urgent optimism, as demonstrated by the slow-motion implosion of Landslide.

Angry, angsty yet radiating wonder, the tune attested to the transformative powers of Nineties alternative pop. In this age of soppy strummers and mewling man-buns, it was a reminder of what we've lost.

The Frank and Walters finish the Grand Parade tour at Cork Opera House, December 31

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