The Frames, Burn The Maps

Thomas Bartlett

By Thomas Bartlett

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Burn The Maps

The Frames
Blessedly life-sized (but still expansive) Irish rock.

An Irish rock-band with a knack for sweeping crescendos and soaring melodies as well as an earnest sense of self-importance, it's inevitable that the Frames be often compared to their compatriots in U2. The comparison is apt, but frontman Glen Hansard doesn't have a Bono-style superhuman rock voice; he has the voice of a normal person and he knows it. The tension between the intimate scale of his voice and the epic tendencies of the band make Burn the Maps an intriguing record, with moments of high drama — the hook of "Finally," for example, is as big as all the world, and Hansard's palpable straining to make it so increases its punch. But not all is stadium-sized bombast and melody-on-sleeve romanticism with the Frames: just as often, they sound like the broken-voiced, angst-ridden progeny of Radiohead, still just as full of drama and fireworks, but all turned inward, an internal combustion of despair. It works best when the band's two impulses are mingled in one song, as on album opener "Happy": a tense, paranoid bar-of-six verse, a thicket of misplaced accents and nervous energy broken open by an expansive, glorious chorus.