I'm just going to be completely honest, and say I've always hated U2. I was never a big fan of their music to begin with; Bono being one of the most arrogant people in music doesn't help my distaste for them in the slightest. So naturally, when a copy of the Frames fifth release Burn The Maps found its way to my desk, I was a little skeptical. This five piece from Ireland have been commonly know not only for their dynamic mood and tempo shifts, but the ability to pull both off well and put out some driving, beautiful rock music. So does Burn The Maps pick up where the band left off with 2001's For The Birds?
Yes and no.
The style that the Frames had made for themselves does stay true on this album, but they've also thrown in a bit of experimentation as well. I cannot fault them, or any band for trying something new, but some of the things they've tried here don't go over as well as they'd probably hoped. This is most apparent on the track "Ship Caught In The Bay." At first listen, it doesn't sound like things have changed
all that much. The low, almost whispered voice of singer Glen Hansard compliments some light plucking on the guitar and atmospheric swirls in the background until the vocals give way for some electronica loops. It doesn't sound all that bad, but it just doesn't fit. It's like two separate songs were glued together,
and that's the result. The mood initially set down is just not complimented by it. Unfortunate, really, because this is a band that seems to be all about setting a mood.
In addition to the sounds laid down by the guitar, bass, and drums, fiddle player Colm MacConlomaire delicately lays down his string arrangements, and there's no point in the album where a song isn't enhanced by it. Whether the guitars
are quiet and brooding, or delicate and slow, the inclusion of the fiddle really helps to bring out the emotion put forth. All of the musicians seem to be in tune with each other, and are able to bring out the best in each other, yet I can't help but think it does grow boring after some time. The vocals can tend to drone at times, but it's nothing too major.
The album's best moment comes on the last song "Locusts." It's a beautiful song with near-spoken vocals and solid lyrical content; "Now you're giving up the ghost / To the one who meant the most / And one day when she least expects she'll know / And the words you never spoke / And the tune you never wrote / Won't write itself or wait for evermore." The guitar is done acoustically here, and again the fiddle provides some good background, and makes the song all that much better. But this brings out one of the complaints that I do have about the album, is that it took too long to get to that point. Again, it's not terrible in any stretch of the imagination; there's just some filler on this album that they just could
have done without. It's just too long for the type of album.
The album clocks in at just under an hour, but it feels like there's quite a bit that's just not necessary. There's a great range to the songs, whether it be mellow or the, at times, more up-tempo side. The vocals are solid, and so are the backing instruments, and I love the way the fiddle is implemented, but they could have cut a few songs off. That, in addition to the electronic elements being added in, bring down the replay value. I'd still recommend you give this a listen, as it may be something you really enjoy, but for my money, stick with For The Birds.