It had been a long time coming for Elliott fans. It had been seven years since the independent music world has heard singer Chris Higdon’s voice since Elliott’s demise in 2003. When it was announced early last year that he had formed a new band, Frontier(s), Elliott fans rejoiced.
The main question was, is this band to take off where Elliott ended with the ethereal post-rock of 2003's Song in the Air or go back to the fan-acclaimed sound of 2000's False Cathedrals? On the Frontier(s) first 7”, The Plains, the answer would be neither. The closest that the The Plains gets is the aggressive post-hardcore of Elliott’s 1998 effort U.S. Songs, but with much better songwriting than that record displayed (as years of songwriting and touring will give).
There are moments of the delay-drenched guitars, but instead of a moody, delicate backdrop, Frontier(s)'s rhythm section pounds its way through discordant, aggressive, straightforward compositions like “The Plains”. The production doesn't come close to False Cathedrals, but that isn't the point of the EP. The point is to grab the listener by the throat with its gritty, imperfect bass tone to the rough, tenacious drumming—something Elliott didn't spend too much time doing at the peak of their popularity and for that, I am glad. It’s definitely a treat to hear Higdon’s legendary vocals within a more direct rock environment. Instead of Higdon’s soft whispers that made up the majority of Elliott’s vocals on their swan song, Song in the Air, he yells and spits his way through the 7”, especially during “Radiomine”, as with each line Higdon spouts out they increase with intensity, absolutely destroying the track.
It’s very hard to not compare Frontier(s) to Elliott, but seeing that this is the band’s first release, it’s very difficult to do. But even without having Elliott as the comparison, Higdon and Co. do a very good job at setting the stage to having their own identity as The Plains is a great debut of a 7” of solid post-hardcore songs that any fan of the genre should pick up. It’s a back to the gritty basics of basement shows and DIY screen-printed covers and this EP harkens to a time where those things mattered. The difference is, on The Plains, nostalgia doesn't buoy the record—it just flat out kills.