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We're Fallin' In Line ...

By Jocelyn Geboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 13, 2007 9:29PM

...for Frisbie’s New Debut. Masters of the turn of phrase and worshippers at the altar of harmony, Frisbie is back in full force. Things look a little different, and the elements have changed. The local band that seemed destined for stardom had some things to work out. Through all of the uncertainty and doubt, the growing pains and a very pregnant pause – Frisbie has come out better for the wear. But they haven’t remained untouched by it, either.

The band that released The Subversive Sounds of Love in 2001 had been left wandering a bit after the dissolution of its original lineup. A keyboardist leaving to attend to personal matters, a bassist striving to make his way in a restructured band. But the most notable shakeup was the absence of drummer, Zack Kantor. Unlike other bands where the drummer plays the important role of holding each song together with the backbeat, Frisbie had been blessed to have a drummer that also rounded out a trio of very talented songwriters.

2007_07frisbie.jpgAlthough Zack’s lyrics could sometimes be obtuse, the overall orchestration of his songs were engaging and often complicated, as a song took many different turns within the span of four minutes. They ranged from achingly poignant ("Whirlwind"), lively and anthemic ("Another Story"), sprawling and multilayered ("Blowin’ Up and Tellin’ Lies") to downright pop masterpieces ("I Know What’s In Store"). You never quite know what you’d get with Zack.

Unfortunately, the wide variety of output from Kantor sometimes translated into inconsistent behavior regarding the band, and he and Frisbie (the band) ended up parting ways. Frisbie released an acoustic album of Kantor’s songs in 2003, entitled period. It was the punctuation to the end of an era. Steve (Frisbie) and Liam (Davis) continued to play out as an acoustic duo, opening for acts like Andrew Bird, The Beautiful South and Evan Dando. Fans were happy for a glimpse, but what they were all asking was – Will the whole band ever re-form? Will they ever make a new record? They had songs they had not yet released – "Yes, Impossible," "Divisadero," "Vibration Man," "Two Fists of the Onion Girl," "Supertaster," "Pardon Our Dust". Maybe an EP?

Find out what happened to Frisbie after the jump...

Hopes were rekindled when the band started to play out again. They played an electric show with a full band at Schubas in November of 2006. They played nearly all new songs – songs that would eventually make up New Debut. Could they come back to regain their former indie pop glory? Salon said "The Subversive Sounds of Love is lyrically and melodically innovative and a joy to listen to..." and included them on their music sampler in 2001. But with such a lapse between records an near complete overhaul to their lineup, could they come back and woo their adoring public again?

2007_07frisbiedd.jpgFear not, Frisfans. New Debut is a collection of songs that shine out as examples of what “power pop” really is. Harmonies and great guitars. Songs that really take you somewhere. And true to perfect pop song fashion, the album is only 10 songs and just under 40 minutes, leaving us wanting more. The opening/title track is pure 21st century 70s, reminiscent of our exiled in obscurity favorites, Tsar. Next up, Frisbie covers itself. Normally, we’d say it was a reprise, but it’s really like another band took their song "Disaster" and covered it, now revved up Frisbie style. We don’t always like to make direct references to other artists, but sometimes it’s the best way to give you an inkling of what something sounds like. Steve touches on some of the best of two of our favorite artists with “half-breed” and “shakin’ the tree.” Half-breed reminds us of something Will Johnson from Centro-matic would write. It’s filled with wonderful writhings of the English language that are curious at times. But we can't help but to fall for lines like "Fall out! Secure your enjoyment/A choice of face and finest appointments/the details of dressing the dead." One of our favorites on the album, “shame on,” seems to have Liam channeling Roger Manning, Jr. of Jellyfish. And we couldn’t be happier.

The two songs that positively drive us wild are "i speak your mind" and "s.f.b." "i speak your mind" is a very dangerous car song. The kind where our foot immediately and unconsciously hits the accelerator, and we long to be on an expressway, pronto. Davis shows that he's a master of the English language, twisting up turns of phrase and throwing in enough alliteration, assonance and rhymes to shame the best of poets. "s.f.b." is begging to be the single, but we're not sure how that's going to work, given the F stands for "fucking." As in "you're So Fucking Beautiful..." It's absolutely single material, and we hope there's a way to get it heard (myspace, anyone?), without losing the essence of the f-word. It's particularly perplexing, since Frisbie goes prudish in other places where similiar words are dying to be heard ('don't you cock it up' -- "lather" and 'when all that you had in the world was a shag in the subway' -- "yes, impossible").

2007_07frisschub.jpgThe album rounds out with two Steve songs, "the main complaint" and "lather." We are gingerly attaching our own interpretation to several of the Frisbie-penned songs to the album. They seem like they're still talking to the missing Kantor, either about his missing mystique or about the aftereffects of a relationship lost. Phrases like 'Can you hold it in, keep it tight/dontcha cock it up, such a perfect night /There you go again, carin’ too much/Can’t stop layin’ all your love on everything you touch' from "lather" and 'You’re up into something and under the rain /This song is aboutcha, you may be too vain/to uncover the wonder/the beautiful blunders, the bells in the brain/So how you gonna complain?' from "the main complaint."

What is remarkable and we have no idea if it was intentional, is while Frisbie (the band) claims they endeavored to start a new phase of their existence when they recorded "period.," we note that over and over they reference Kantorian themes with the repetition/use of images of bells, the undertow, and being in wonder. It's not a bad thing, but rather just something we picked up on as long-time listeners of Frisbie. If anything, it's a tribute to the lasting influence of Kantor on the band. Produced by bassist Matt Thompson, New Debut is certainly a rebirth for the band, and an incredibly wonderful one at that.

You can sample it tomorrow; Frisbie is playing their record release show for "New Debut" tomorrow night at Double Door. Chicago alt-country darlings Dolly Varden open. The show starts at 9 p.m. A little bird told us that if you present a ticket from Saturday's Pitchfork or Old Town's Roots and Folk Festival, you'll get yourself in for free. Much music is to be had this weekend. Now go to it!

First photo by Wes
Second photo from Double Door show in Feb 2007
Third photo from Schubas show in July 2005