First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2008, Volume 15, #3
Written by John Metzger
Mon March 3, 2008, 07:00 AM CST
New Debut, the title to Frisbie’s latest album, is — for those who know better — a bit of a humorous joke. Many outfits have come and gone in the years that have passed since 2000, when the group issued The Subversive Sounds of Love, one of the most promising power pop albums in ages. The set ought to have garnered a wealth of attention and widespread, mainstream success for the ensemble. For an all-too-brief moment, it did appear as if Frisbie would become the latest buzz band, albeit with the twist that it actually deserved all of the hype that it was receiving.
Frisbie’s momentum was disrupted, however, when drummer Zack Kantor’s bipolar disorder became too much to bear. For a time, the outfit maintained a low-key profile with the hope that Kantor would recover enough to resume performing. In an attempt to keep its name in lights, co-founders Steve Frisbie and Liam Davis recorded a subdued acoustic set, entitled period., which featured a slew of Kantor’s previously unrecorded songs. Between 2003 and 2007, though, the ensemble largely remained in limbo, and Frisbie and Davis made only occasional appearances as duo. In the meantime, Davis launched a separate career as a producer and sideman for Justin Roberts, an equally talented artist working in the family music market. This lent credence to the notion that Frisbie unjustly was destined to be a mere footnote in Chicago’s rich, musical history.
Nevertheless, in an effort to put their problems behind them, Frisbie and Davis resurrected the outfit by adding drummer Gerald Dowd and bass player Matt Thompson to their midst. At long last, Frisbie’s silence was broken last fall when it issued the appropriately titled New Debut. With its majestic harmonies, sugar-spun melodies, and intricately detailed arrangements, the collection is every bit as delectable as The Subversive Sounds of Love was. In fact, it’s safe to say that, despite its lengthy absence, the ensemble has not missed a beat.
Throughout New Debut, Frisbie reaches far and wide across the expanses of the power pop terrain, drawing lines that connect The Beatles and The Monkees with Cheap Trick and The Who. As always, songs might begin in one place, only to fall into another dimension, and this allows Frisbie to bring just about everything imaginable under its umbrella. Touches of Trick of the Tail-era Genesis, for example, feed the prog-rock undercurrents of Shame On; the addition of horns undeniably lends a Chicago-esque flair to Half-Breed; and I Speak Your Mind rolls from, among other things, Elvis Costello to The Police.
Countless bands have tried their hands at crafting similar concoctions. Yet, they typically have wound up sounding stiff and stale. Frisbie, on the other hand, magically makes each melody — from the arena-ready title track to the propulsive ebullience of Lather — stick. For all of the reference points that flitted through The Subversive Sounds of Love, the outfit clearly demonstrated that it had a wonderful gift for transforming its many influences into something unique. As improbable as it might seem, especially after all this time, New Debut finds Frisbie getting right back to business, and its confectionary pop anthems are even more addictive than ever.
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box