It appears that I must go international to be able to write a review that doesn’t contain phrases like “emotional quasi-hardcore breakdowns” or “scream-whine-screaming formula,” so thank you to Bologna, Italy’s Franklin Delano and thank you to Chicago’s File 13 for finding them for me.
As you may or may not know, the Velvet Underground is one of my favorite bands, as is the way it should be with any self-respecting indie/punk/music-lover. Their ability to produce such beautiful yet such abrasive sounds by melding melodies with screeching feedback, they set a example that, as far as I’m concerned, no band has been able to surpass. Franklin Delano replicates quite a few of my favorite VU characteristics while giving their own folky-bluesy-slowcore spin on it all. The songs are all acoustic-based, including even acoustic standup bass, but then supplemented by textural and harsh synths, amp drones and feedback galore. They even employ the male/female vocal dynamic incorporated by VU followers like Yo La Tengo. Chicago producer Brian Deck (most known for Modest Mouse’s The Moon & Antarctica and Iron & Wine’s Our Endless Numbered Days) is also a former member of Califone, and brings in his old buds to help bring even noise to the proceedings, after the band decided to transfer from the studio they were at in Bologna.
The album begins at a slow pace with “Call It A Day”, a song driven by acoustic guitar and vibrato-laced synth tones. The song is 7˝ minutes in length, but spends the last three in a pool of guitar feedback and synth buzzing. At this point, the listener is either annoyed or enjoying their audacity, and I am the latter. “Please Remember Me” picks the tempo up a notch, with more typical indie arpeggiated guitars, but with a folky feel and interesting lyrics accompanying; “And if you chew that blade of grass / And if you lick that dust on the floor / You’ll find they taste like my skin.” “Sounds Like Rain” actually sounds more like feedback to me, and I love it. It’s the most mellow of feedback, gently swelling over the top of plucked acoustic guitar, bowed upright bass and a slow drum groove. Bending lapsteel soon enters and later entwines with a twangy acoustic line.
“We Don’t Care” finds another Velvet-ism sneaking into their sound as feedback is supplemented with squeaking and droning violin akin to John Cale’s style on the first VU album. After 4˝ minutes of artsy meandering, the drums kick in with the most driving beat found on the album. This contrast, along with the country-fried vocal hook of “Born to die but we don’t care” make this my favorite track, as it winds it way back to the scratchy strings. “Me And My Dreams” finds the band at their most folky, with brushed drums pushing along plenty of strings and one of the best melodies on the disc, all in their most concise song. The ender “Your Perfect Skin Line” may be almost 12 minutes, but the Mars Volta they are not. Instead, they opt for a meandering drum beat and gentle guitars twisting around tin-can vocals, only to surprise with a couple of huge chords and lines like “Fuck all these feelings I’ve got in my heart,” only to die down again. The chorus comes once more, followed by a last couple minutes of pounding bass, auxiliary and odd percussion.
Along with the couple bands mentioned before, fans of Low’s slow tendencies and newer Wilco’s love of the feedback-soaked long song should also enjoy Franklin Delano. I would recommend this album to anyone with a desire for something different and with a bit of time and patience.