Frog: Kind Of Blah  CD/LP   (Audio Anti Hero)

Release date: May 25th, 2015

Kind of Blah artwork

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Bio: A guitar duo from Queens, New York, Frog are Dan Bateman (Guitar/Vocals) and Thomas White (Drums). Their 2013 self-titled debut, on NYC’s Monkfish label, went largely unnoticed in their home country, but an emotional write-up from GoldFlakePaint and a subsequent post on Drowned In Sound, which proclaimed it as “the best American guitar record of the year”, did a little something to get a few people talking.

Having spent 2014 playing shows all around New York (Knitting Factory, Cake Shop, Glasslands), Frog are finally ready to issue their debut LP on London’s Audio Antihero label. ‘Kind of Blah’ features 11.5 songs recorded in a non-functioning bowling alley under a cafe in Astoria, New York. As Bateman writes on the LP sleeve, the album “was an attempt to engage modern musical ideas from a 1950s style of arrangement, and a was a complete failure in that respect but a success in most others.” However, dialect, icons, starlets, clichés and events of decades gone-by all permeate the record.

Lyrically it’s like channel flipping through the generations, catching sight of the familiar, famous and forgotten. ‘Kind of Blah’ is like having a glass of Dr Pibb at the diner while Nixon resigns, half remembering an 80s children’s rhyme while Judy Garland is found dead, kids making out in the booth to Lynyrd Skynyrd as you read that Jesús Montero is in trouble again.

Album opener “All Dogs Go to Heaven” steps cautiously through the rain and fog. The uneven footing of the album’s introduction gives way to the promise that “If all dogs go to heaven, and all dames ache for Daniel Day - fuck with me darlin' and I'll make you pay”, before growing into a mountain of sound, bursting at the seams with frustration and nostalgia for years they never lived in.

The album bursts with frenzy. “Fucking” is thrashing Power Pop guitars and hammering drums, carrying lust, clumsy romance and uncertain aggression (“Suck it to me, suck it to me, motherfucker - hey, how are you doing?”) before things simmer with “Wish Upon A Bar”, a sombre bar crawl of NYC dives past and present, regrets and barriers all the way (“the buck that bought the bottle could’a struck the lotto but I never really knew what it means...don't tell me where you are.”) - dropping then with a thud into the semi-slacker rock of “Photograph” (“guitar fell out of time, missed you when you were mine...”) with its torn falsetto and the bridge’s glittering mauled mumble.

Their Country influence (Bateman citing Hank Williams in particular) and frantic musical style brings not only elements of groups like Modest Mouse and the Meat Puppets to mind but also the likes of Micah P. Hinson, as well Indie icons such Pavement. But NYC and its ghosts have made their mark on this record, Bateman naming Miles Davis (from whom the LP takes its title), Stanley Kubrick, Frank Sinatra, (“only the sad ones”) and David Berman of the Silver Jews as influences on his writing, recording and storytelling.

The album’s lead-single, “Judy Garland”, offers a good introduction to the Frog sound with its unintelligible preacher talk, distant slang, the death of a starlet, handclaps, banjo plucking country drawl, huge pop hooks and impossible ambitions (“ I wanna put my foot down on Manhattan, make it float down like a boogie board, see the water bulging through the avenue”). While on the album’s the hidden title track, Frog finally get the ‘Kind of Blue’ solo you feel they’ve been pining for the whole time - it’s a shrieking kazoo, but it’ll rattle your bones all the same.

‘Kind of Blah’ doesn’t sound like it was recorded in the Columbia studios on 30th Street or like it was produced by Irving Townsend, nor do the songs sound like they were written to be performed at Carnegie Hall. But the spirit of NYC past and present lives in Frog, in this unknown guitar duo from Queens. It’s an album full of sounds and stories, of lives lived and not lived, and it’s every bit as compelling as that sounds.