Had The Frank and Walters retired after perennial classic After All, they would have already cemented their place in the annals of Irish rock. Since their formation over twenty years ago though, the Franks have been quietly and at their leisure plugging away, and lately released Greenwich Mean Time their 6th studio album. The band’s mission statement – “saving the world one song at a time” – may strike you as an ambitious one, but after witnessing the band’s set in The Workman’s Club, I’m thinking…they might just do it, one club at a time.
The Workman’s is already bustling as we make our way in before Cavan’s The Would Be’s begin their set. It’s the first time the band once championed by John Peel and our own Dave Fanning have played together in twenty years, and they certainly seem to be enjoying the experience. It doesn’t hurt of course that the songs are effervescent slices of near-perfect new wave power pop with Blondie highlights streaked through, particularly on My Radio Sounds Different In The Dark. It comes as no surprise either that Morrissey invited the band to join him on his Kill Uncle tour with more than a hint of his influence in these tunes.
The fun is in the details; the flowers attached to the head of the bass guitar; the lively drummer’s Ramouns – yes, Ramouns – t-shirt; the sporadic droplets of spittle nonchalantly sent flying from the trombone of Aidine O’Reilly. I’m Hardly Ever Wrong, featured in 101 Irish Records (You Must Hear Before You Die), gets a well-received outing, while the venue takes on the hue of a teenage disco with waltzy, oom-pa-pa number Logic Makes No Sense To Me. Ballroom style spotlights circle the room as folk gently sway – all that’s missing now is a disco ball, a naggin and the shift. From watching this pleasing set it seems evident that The Would Be’s have re-caught the playing live bug, and I’ll certainly be heading along to see them if they decide to pay another visit.
The disco lights – and what sounds like whale noise – are back to herald the arrival of The Frank and Walters, decked out in identical orange shirts and black ties. It immediately puts you in mind of Kraftwerk and indeed, they play a version of The Model – sounding uncannily like Talking Heads Road To Nowhere with a country tinge – later in the night. It’s all too dishevelled to be Kraftwerk though; it’s more like they met Franz Ferdinand walking down the quays, battered them, and nicked their duds. Tony Cochrane opens proceedings, and from here on in we’re riding a wave of good vibes, with the band knocking out gem after gem. Admittedly I’m no Franks expert, but this couldn’t be more irrelevant when confronted with the masterful power pop of Plenty Times and crowd-pleaser Colours. Who am I kidding, they were all crowd pleasers. Through it all Paulie and Ash exchange banter about everything and nothing in between material old and new.
After All has everyone singing along, of course, before a drum intro leads into the band’s battle hymn We Are The Frank and Walters with its March of the Mods feel. Little Dolls has a nice 60’s texture, while during the night sounds swing from imperial, Smiths-like indie to those eerily reminiscent of the Saw Doctors. But in a good way. New number If I’d Known brings the set to a roaring end before the band return to give a few shout-outs past and present and finish with Michael and Time We Said Goodnight, a finale that strives to be epic but somehow doesn’t quite get there. The Franks chant takes over the room for a few verses before dying out, the magical atmosphere in the venue carrying through from the beginning of the night right to the end. The evergreen Franks certainly delivered the goods with this early gig of the year contender bai.
The Frank And Walters Photo Gallery
Photos: Kieran Frost