Frankie Cosmos at The Button Factory, August 23rd, 2018
Having previously wowed Belfast and Galway, it was Dublin’s turn to succumb to the whimsy of Frankie Cosmos on the final date of their whistle-stop Irish tour. The New York quartet deliver an artisan haze of poetry, personality and despair in the way that only art school America can, with the perfect balance of gumption and self-loathing.
Accompanying Frankie Cosmos around Ireland are home-grown underground favourites Squarehead. Roy Duffy (singer / guitarist), Ian McFarlane (bass) Ruan Van Vliet (drums) are the perfect foils and kindred DIY spirits for such a journey.
Squarehead sound like Buddy Holly with a bad case of the blues, their melodies glisten, their beats boom merrily and their basslines strut with big dick energy. Yet, even at their happiest moments, they are adjacent to misery. Everything they do is simmered in apathy, but it’s an evocative and welcoming disdain and they suitably impress.
Now that the crowd has been left simmering at a low heat, it’s time for Greta Kline, the undisputed queen of New York Bedroom Pop, to hold court – she’s earned that title via releasing over 40 albums before she’s 25.
She’s joined by Luke Pyenson (drums), Alex Bailey (bass guitar), and Lauren Martin (keyboards), but as with any moniker act – Villagers for example – it’s a vehicle for a singular talent and Greta Kline is Frankie Cosmos’ anchor.
From the off it’s apparent that one of the most remarkable things about Greta Kline is how she uses her weaknesses as much as her strengths to convey her messages. She’s not the world’s greatest guitar player or singer, but every note has a function and conveys something. When her voice scrambles, it scrambles at the emotional climax of the song with gut-wrenching results. And what’s impressive about that is that it’s by design.
Kline’s compositions are highly emotive and the fragility of her voice creates a conduit of raw emotion that transports the audience through chapter and verse of her mishaps and tragedies. This is amped up further by the simplicity of the arrangements which act as a stark comfort blanket.
There is also a clever lack of repetition throughout Kline’s songs – only two Frankie Cosmos songs clock in at over three minutes.
So when Kline delivers a killer line, such as “I’m kind of pretty/That’s why you want it so bad” during opening song Caramelize, it’s as if she’s slapped you in the face, turned her back and walked away. She’s said what she has to say and she won’t repeat herself. This trick enhances the emotional impact creating a palpable atmosphere.
It’s not all morose though, the group are joined on stage by dancing puppets during Being Alive and there’s a joyous run through of Mama Mia in the encore, but when you go to a Frankie Cosmos show, you go to feel it in your guts – Greta Kline is happy to kick you repeatedly.
The vocal interplay between Kline and Lauren Martin during On The Lips delivers such a jolt, while Apathy is as an emotion laden live rendering of a song as you are likely to witness any time soon.
Bringing bedroom pop to the big stage is a delicate operation, because so much of the appeal is based on the intimacy of the listening experience. After all, this isn’t party music, this is lonely music, but Kline and co. have balanced the proposition perfectly, creating an unlikely community.
Read our recent interview with Frankie Cosmos.