“Jesus loves me, he just don’t know it yet...” Aaron Sinclair non-chalantly proclaims on “Empty TV's.” Thus epitomizes the mood on Frank smith’s new album, Big Strike in Silver City. On the album, Frank Smith takes country, punk, honky-tonk, noise, folk and indie rock and molds them into different configurations without ever sounding forced.
Frank Smith is a deceptive group of folks, since there is no one in the band actually named Frank Smith. They recently moved from Boston, MA to Austin, TX and this is their first album since moving to the Lone Star State, but their sixth overall. As prolific as Frank Smith is, their sound never gets tired or overused because they continue to play with similar themes while the sound changes from record to record. But the one constant is Aaron Sinclair, chief songwriter and voice of the band. You may recognize his name from Boston staples the Lot Six and Drexel.
“Put Me in a Hole” starts with a solo harmonica then kicks in with slide and acoustic guitar, bass and drums. It is catchy-as-hell alt-country and the chorus takes on a dark quality: “Someone has to die to make this count. Put me in a hole. I won’t make a sound.”
The banjo from the two previous records is unfortunately missing, but more lap steel guitar and piano, along with the inclusion of trumpets and jingle bells (yes, the actual instrument. Trust me -- it sounds ballsy and ominous where it is included) are nice additions to Frank Smith’s sound.
The album strides between the sad and angry but there is also an underlying sense of hope. The music can be quiet and somber (“You Just Like to Lose,” “Purple Front Door”) but also loud and ripping (“Keep the Money”, “Empty TV’s”) and an amalgam of the two (“Let's Die Tonight”).
“Let's Die Tonight” starts out subtle but then spurns into a rage-filled rant before dropping out to a slow-moving folk song and then continuing that cycle. Dynamics like this make the album a repeat listen. It is not angst for angst's sake -- there is a sense of meaning and purpose behind each lyric and song structure.
“Leona” has a sense of woe in the catchy chorus. “Empty TV’s” is a highlight with its slow build and noisy guitar that eventually evolves into a killer riff to end the song.
After six albums (and one EP with Juliana Hatfield) in eight years, you would think that a band would get stagnant and start repeating themselves. But Frank Smith plays their indie rock-country-folk-whatever with real emotion. This is Aaron pouring his heart out with. But Frank Smith remain fresh and hungrier than they have ever been.