Slumberland Records/Grey Market
11 August 2017
Phenomenon Frankie Rose, former member of Crystal Stilts, Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls and Beverly is finally back on the indie-scene with an epic 4th album! “Cage Tropical” still contains some of Rose‘s dreamy signature sound, but also breaks away from that quite radically by juxtaposing it with some darker, esoteric dives. Just as radical as her move away from her Brooklyn base to LA, which was a disappointing, but life-changing one: “”I moved to LA, drama ensued and I ended up on a catering truck. I was like, how can this be my life after being a touring musician and living off of music. I had really lost my way and I thought I was totally done” (Rose /press release). During her time in LA she spent her nights listening to the paranormal-archives broadcaster Art Bells which inspired the themes for “Cage Tropical” together with vintage SCI-FI films and soundtracks. The first stage of the new album was set up in LA with the help of Jorge Elbrecht (Tamaryn, Gang Gang Dance), and the last stage back in NY with Dave Harrington (Darkside).
The result of these significant shifts is “Cage Tropical”: drenched with vintage synths, echoing vocals, guitar effects pedals, and a chiaroscuro atmosphere. Opening track “Love in Rockets” with its shimmery, cinematic vibe, 80’s synths and lyrics chanting “a wheel, a wheel of wasting my life: a wheel, a wheel of wasting my time” immediately alluding to the darker period that preceded the birth of “Cage Tropical”. “Its all essentially based on what happened to me in Los Angeles and then a return to Brooklyn,” says Frankie. “Misery turned into something good. The whole record to me is a redemption record and it is the most positive one I’ve made”.“Dyson Sphere” opens with the dark drive of the Cure‘s “A Forest” and has an overall strong 80’s new wave vibe combined with some more dreamy, shoegazy parts.
“Trouble” was the very first single revealed from “Cage Tropical“. The accompanying video flashes a phone-number through which Rose is encouraging fans to leave messages with “their paranormal & extraterrestrial encounter stories“, and the track appropriately kicks off with some “spooky interference“. The verse has a bit of a Moroder (I Feel Love) feel to it, but the chorus is where the magic happens: spiralling layers of out-of-this-world vocals backed up by a guitarline that slowly strolls along an A major scale, then seamlessly speeds in and out until it all comes together like a cannon. Brilliant! The lyrics seem to be taken right from my own life: “Sometimes I wanna walk, I wanna walk, I wanna run away. Run away. Trouble follows you (if you run no matter where….)” Frankie Rose: “Trouble came out of the simple realization that you can’t outrun yourself or your problems. Wherever you go they will follow you unless you address them,”
As I said earlier on, Frankie has been watching a lot of Art Bell’s shows on the paranormal/supernatural. It feels only “natural” therefore to have a track dedicated to him: the intro of “Art Bell” briefly reminds me of the Mock Turtles’ “And Then She Smiles”, but then the track delves into somber 80’s mode to be subsequently picked up by the lightness of piercing synths, kaleidoscopic vocals and languid guitars until it stops quietly and abruptly. Album title-track “Cage Tropical” has an ethereal, summery groove and the dreamy forgetfulness of new starts, but revs ups to a darker underlying melancholy and the realisation of transcience: “On and On….You’re on your own again”.
“Red Museum” was the second single, and my personal favourite. Once again it has a strong presence of the darkness/light theme: an enigmatic and haunting verse (“everything you know is a lie, and the luck you had will die”), flowing into a chorus where bliss and fear become rolled into that one sensation of falling and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Frankie explained in a press release: “‘Red Museum’ is a love song. It’s a portrait of the kind of fearful thoughts that can run through a person’s head upon the possibility of caring for another person.” The “Red Museum,” video was directed by and co-starring L.A.-based musician/performance artist Geneva Jacuzzi, and locates the track in a gallery filled with veiled figures, textile sculptures, and video monitors.
Frankie‘s own conclusion about the album is equally paradoxical as the songs it harbours, where affliction and purging go hand in hand : “I feel like I am finally free from worrying about an outcome. I dont care. I already lost everything. I already had the worst-case scenario. When that happens, you do become free. In the end, its about me rescuing myself via having this record.”