Jang Jang Jang: the A Frames

Hey, you like scientists and robots and molecules and plastic surgery and surveillance cameras and stuff like that, right? Right. Well, so do the A Frames.

A coworker at my old job turned onto these guys a few years ago. She said “If you like the Fall, you’ll probably like the A Frames. They sound just like Fall when they were good.”

And while I hate to say, you know, “The A Frames sound like the Fall during the good old days,” but they sort of do. Both bands have this out-of-tune, rhythmic, garagey kind of thing going on. Also, something like 2/3 of the A Frames used to be called Bend Sinister (named after the seminal 1986 Fall masterpiece), and released their stuff on Dragnet Records (named after the seminal 1979 Fall masterpiece).

However, it's just an influence—it isn’t, like, slavish Count 5 ripping off the Yardbirds-style imitation. The two bands are drastically different. The A Frames have their own particular sound and own particular lyrical concerns. Besides, who in their right mind doesn’t like the Fall? Even deaf people like the Fall! Unless they’re boring, illiterate deaf people.

The A Frames have three albums—A Frames, the imaginatively-titled A Frames 2, and Black Forest. All adhere to the patented A Frames Formula, which can be described thusly:

1.) Weirdly tuned, choppy guitar.
2.) Distorted bass played with a pick
3.) Robotic, clattering, polka-like drums
4.) A singer with really precise enunciation. It sounds like “arf arf arf arf arf-arf-arf”
5.) Somewhere underneath it all, good time sing-along melodies.

This clanky, mid-tempo steam train racket functions as a conveyance for the A Frames’ hilarious, semi-paranoid lyrical matter. Song titles include “Black Forest,” “Memoranda,” “Transgenic,” “333333333,” and the amazing archaeology stomper “Flies,” about a uniformed guy reading cuniform in the fertile crescent. That’s right, in a uniform, reading cuniform. Far out.

I waited for this band to play New York for years, but in interviews they claimed that their jobs would not allow them to tour. Bereft of hope, a single tear welling in my eye, I moved to another country. And then they played New York. Shit. They also undertook a European tour, but no bands ever come this far east, unless the only crowds that will pay to see them are out here. I’m looking at you, Toto and Whitesnake.

My profound sadness lasted until I cast my mind back to the summer of 2005, when Sarah and I traveled by rail from Germany to Serbia. We were the only passengers on a small, rickety train that was going through the countryside, passing by these tiny little villages. I waved to the townspeople as though I were a foreign dignitary while listening to Black Forest on my headphones.

The train was going “jud jud jud jud jud” and the music was going “jang jang jang jang jang” and the singer was going “arf arf arf arf arf,” and I was waving grandly, everyone was waving back, and the sun was shining. Not a lot of bands provide a good soundtrack for the listener to pretend to be a foreign dignitary to while traveling by rail through Eastern Europe. So if that kind of thing appeals to you, then you should check ‘em out.


nathan said...

well, I'm persuaded...consider it acquired. that 3rd variation on the title track sounds like a Bone Machine out-take. this is a good thing. but not for civilization (damn hoax!). thanks!

Rick said...

Hey, glad to know you liked it! Sub Pop ought to be paying me royalties. I hadn't made the clanky clanky Tom Waits connection before, but now it seems obvious . . .