45:07 min • Island • August 3rd, 2009
The first half of the year may have been dominated by a squall of individualist, electro-pop minstrels (Lady GaGa, La Roux, Little Boots, Ladyhawke et al), but the first maestro to emerge in 2009 from the eye of this rampant electric storm is Frankmusik. A former beatboxer named Mr. Mouth and erstwhile remixer of Alphabeat and Pet Shop Boys, Croydon born Vincent Frank is about to unleash an accomplished album brimming with nifty influences from Daft Punk, Mylo, Basement Jaxx, Mika and Ultravox to name a mere few.
Hailed as one of the sounds of 2009 by the BBC, Frankmusik has had much to prove this year with his first album, particularly as his fellow nominees have performed so well. Produced by Stuart Price, the much-coveted wunderkind of the naughties, Complete Me has an undoubtedly ‘ 80s flavour and lies deftly between the heavy, dark synth of previous Price ventures Juliet and Zoot Woman and the disco-pop of Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor , with some techno, new wave and nu-rave thrown in for good measure.
The album opens with some outstanding synthesizer riffs and leads into the deep, breathy vocal of ‘ In Step ’. The blunt synthesized beats and Daft Punk overtones lay down the gauntlet for an album filled with an optimistic pop-synth rhythm so astute that it can evoke the feel of the ‘80s while still sounding fresh and innovative. The song’s theme of how fickle the fame game can be is however not indicative of the long player’s common subject matter. A self-confessed “break-up album about one girl” may sound dour on the surface, but the diverse styles and approaches on the record make it a fascinating journey and there are some wholly inventive bridges and inspired sampling.
Frank and Price’s winning formula is by far the bold union of ‘80s new wave and modern electro-pop, highlighted perfectly on the very A-Ha-like ‘ Confusion Girl’ ; and the thumping ‘ 3 Little Words’ could be straight out of Footloose. Then there is the disco-pop and killer chorus of ‘ Better Off As Two’ which serves to convince a lady-friend that parting ways is the best option, but in the most optimistic of ways. Other standouts are the relentless disco-stomper ‘ Gotta Boyfriend ’ and ‘Wonder Woman’, in which we discover that even superheroines need sleep and have manicures .
It would be easy to pigeonhole Frank as an electro-kid, but the album’s few ballads showcase his aching, vocal depth perfectly and are able to stand out as epics when contrasted with the pulsating synth of other tracks. ‘ Your Boy ’ is a genuinely majestic song and evokes Midge Ure at his most affecting. This is a sure-fire, crossover contender for stellar success. Many have compared Frank’s vocal delivery to that of Mika, but this falsetto and tenor style is rather more layered that erratic, although things can go slightly awry and he could do well to reign in the falsetto, particularly at the end of title track ‘ Complete Me’ .
Elsewhere, the tender ‘ Vacant Heart ’ demonstrates Frank’s perfect command of sampling as the song is introduced with the sweeping power of Malcolm McClaren’s ‘ Madame Butterfly’ . Further shrewd sampling is highlighted on the sped-up, futuristic-pop reworking of ‘ Golden Brown’, ‘ When You’re Around ’, which transforms an ode to heroin into a bittersweet love song, and on the track ’Time Will Tell ’, which makes fantastic use of ‘ Pump Up The Volume’ .
‘Run Away From Trouble ’ sits well at the end of the album with its ambient and reflective feel and the not-so-hidden track ’Olivia’ is a gentle, stripped down song that underlines Frank’s sheer diversity; not only can he create electro-pop stompers, but this wonderfully uninhibited performer is more than capable of crafting more acoustic, mellow numbers.
The two tracks already released, ‘ Better Off As Two ’ and ‘ Confusion Girl ’, have shown early chart promise, but have fallen short of the high expectations set already by his peers. This album is sure to generate an incredible buzz and there are already some trendy videos directed by Tim Pope to raise Frank’s profile, as well as his unique ‘ Live and Lost’ endeavour, which saw him perform in bizarre venues around the UK on a shoestring budget.
Although 2009 has already seen a glut of individual electro-pop artists, Frankmusik is surely ranked up there with La Roux for sheer originality, casting aside with talented ease the obvious frippery of Lady Gaga and the overcooked Little Boots. The influences may be manifold, but the boy makes it work in splendid fashion. A true refreshing gem of an album from a bright star in the ascendancy.