My love affair with the Frankl Project has been a long one, beginning at the time when I started getting into the local punk scene. I started out with more accessible bands like Blink-182 and moved on to more underground bands like Rise Against and Against Me! (at least at the time they were). Then I was introduced to the local ska scene at my high school through an old friend from elementary school and began listening to bands like the Pinstripes and my personal favorite, the Prairie Dog Gangsters. I would see these bands at the Bogart's High School Band Challenge and was content with it. When I learned the 1st Ska Fest was being put on by my friends in the Pinstripes, I was excited. I could see my favorite bands in an intimate setting with all my friends and it would cost marginally less than the removed Bogart's shows. The show was at the Viper Room (now known as the Poison Room) and featured PDG and the Pinstripes, a more annoying earlier incarnation of Forest Fire, and the Frankl Project. I stuck around through Elbowdrop's final set, circle-pitted and skanked during PDG's and the Pinstripes' sets and had a ball. Frankl Project was the last band playing, and I remember maybe 90% of the kids at the show leaving right after the Pinstripes set ended. It was me, my brother, and a handful of other people. Sitting there that night taking in the Frankl Project changed my life. Their set was inventive, the music was fast and unrepetetive and it wasn't ska, it was punk with flavor. They also added a style that seems to be more associated with potheads and Bob Marley: reggae. They mix it into the ska and punk formula and produce great results by adding the upstroke that is more chill and pretty than the banal tone of ska guitars.
At the beginning of this year, I finally bought the Cost of War EP, intrigued by the three songs I had downloaded on the Internet and the prospects of a concept album made by a local band that I admired. When I listened to it, I was floored by how good it sounded, especially considering that they were a young band when they recorded it. The story goes as this (in the band's own words):
A story of an individual fed up with his life and the world around him. In hopes of making a change he decides to leave his home and make a new life. But due to the economic situation he must resort to life on the streets. Desperate, poor, and hungry he has no choice but to join the army, where he fights and dies for a cause that he doesn't believe in. With no parade to celebrate his homecoming, the Unknown Soldier dies without a name, just another casualty, catalogued and forgottenā?¦The trio start the CD with "American Idle," loaded with ska upstrokes and great lyrics: "And tonight I'll be dancing on your grave, if I wasn't already rolling in mine!." This song is as far as the band dabbles into the ska genre, which is good because it helps the album to smoothly transition into their next song.
"Tides of Change" begins with a clean upstroke chord progression and the song runs on its way to the climax where lead singer/guitarist Jake Tippey cries "Tides of change, blow in with the rain but we can't see them 'cause we're swept under the waves, beached on shore like drunken whales with our blubber and we sail on through life like nothing is wrong, then we put it in a song."
"Home Tonight" tells the sad story of the homeless phase of the character's life as he sits on a street corner and questions life itself. Jake's voice on this song epitomizes the Frankl Project as he melds a more melodic version of Greg Graffin with the passion of Tom Gabel. This song is one of my favorites on the CD and reminds me of why I got into TFP in the first place.
"Elmer Fitzgerald" begins like an At the Drive-In song, with a technical drum beat that fits perfectly into the mix courtesy of drummer Joe Frankl. The song details the change in lifestyle of the character and has a beautiful guitar part accented by a grooving bass, which helps makes this song stand out.
"Soapbox Soldier" is about the death of the soldier and how his final moments transpire: "Soapbox soldier drop your gun and come into the light, choirs of angels call your name but they don't ask you to fight!." Probably the best song on the album.
The album's title track, "Cost of War" bears strong resemblance to the begging drum beats of almost any Anti-Flag song and is consequently the album's most punk rock song, as it is distorted the entire length of the song. A catchy chorus that is easy to remember makes it an awesome live song as well.
"Cost of War" flows into "One Last Parade" with the sound of raindrops and the explosion of rockets. The song's slow and mournful tone mellows down the album in accordance to the story and is a social critique that is similar to the points that Modern Life Is War makes on Witness. The song reaches its crescendo as the gang mourns the death of the Unknown Soldier and ends the story's last chapter.
In searching for a phrase to describe The Frankl Project one comes to mind: GOING PLACES!