Wexford duo Frankenstein Bolts (Justin Cullen and Dan Comerford) no longer have that comfort blanket of appearing from nowhere with an album. Their second album carries a weight of expectation after a promising debut and some well received EP’s. More so, it will confirm if they have reserves of ideas and songwriting talent that will sustain them for the long haul.
The good news is that within their own limiting template of dream pop, Frankenstein Bolts have found enough nuance to subtly expand their style without dropping all that’s good about them on new album, ‘Aglow & Sparks’. Primarily what they have added is a stronger emphasis on choral melody than on previous album ‘Slow Season’.
Album opener Land & Water sets the tone. It’s a breezy, hazy number that seems shorter than it’s almost seven minute length. It’s testament to it’s immediacy that it never feels that it’s over long.
You could never describe Frankenstein Bolts tunes as soaring, but Human Hands glides swiftly with its uplifting tone. It’s an understated highlight that warrants repeat listens. The Lonely Hour, with it’s funk-like bass line and disco synth, builds to a lush chorus. All the while Justin Cullen’s voice exudes a warmth and calming influence. Anatomic Major is sprightly – partly down it’s bouncing guitar lines – and is an earworm of a tune.
Expecting a dream pop song to break into a sprint is like expecting Kanye West to be humble. Even by those standards there is a much slower side to ‘Aglow & Sparks’. Languages (I Know) and Woodshed veer closer to folk music. They are are more stripped-back than other songs and the change in tempo is welcome, as all albums need that variation to change things up.
‘Aglow & Sparks’ may not have a single defining song like Sleeping Sacks from their debut but it’s arguably better for it. ‘Aglow & Sparks’ is a wholly more consistent album that shows that Frankenstein Bolts, rather than running out of ideas, have cottoned onto what specifically makes them tick and improved on all aspects.