Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing

A buddy of mine in Boston invited me to a show last year, two New York artists called Porches and Frankie Cosmos. The show was pretty great, even though I was literally twice as old as most of the all-ages crowd. Frankie Cosmos had some good nervous energy but felt a bit unformed or unpolished, and Porches (comprised of at least two of the same members of Frankie) were great front to back. I left and immediately started diving into Porches’ collection, whereas I’d listen to a few tracks by Frankie Cosmos every now and then.

2016 rolled in and with it came new records from both bands. Porches’ Pool was still OK in terms of its songwriting, but the production was pretty intolerable to me. To paraphrase my illustrious partner at Fraudsters, it sounded like late 1980s Phil Collins started collaborating with Lorde. Then throw in some painful early 90s techno sounds and motifs, too. I don’t know, maybe it has some appeal if you are in fact half my age, and didn’t grow up with Mr. Vain at the Electric Circus.

A few months later and now we’ve got the new Frankie Cosmos record, Next Thing. Points for the title! And if Pool was a disappointment for me, then Next Thing is a really nice development.

Frankie Cosmos is mainly the project of Greta Kline. I’d like to just pause here a second, because I later found out that she’s the daughter of Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates, which is basically the most charming pairing of 1980s stars that I can imagine.

Moving on. Kline’s lyrics and voice are reminiscent of Julie Doiron, a sort of intimacy and plainness in content and delivery. When you consider her in context of most pop music, where artists speak in generalities and are emotionally guarded, there’s something really refreshing about Kline’s approach. It’s why I fell for Doiron’s stuff, after all.

Next Thing‘s biggest strength, and also its weakness, is in the approach to songwriting. Many of these tracks don’t get past the two-minute mark, and not a single one reaches three minutes. This manifests in two ways. First, there are quick pop songs that make their point and don’t overstay their welcome. These tracks are almost uniformly fantastic and take advantage of great sounding guitar/bass/drums band arrangements. Second, there are songs that seem like sketches, often slower tempo and inconsistent in their arrangements, and that have something simple to say. Any one of these tracks seems alright on its own, but in sum they begin to kill the album’s momentum. It’s pretty surprising to me that such a short album made of short songs can drag by the end, but there you have it.

So Next Thing isn’t necessarily a record for my tastes, but there’s a lot to like about it. The best tracks, like “If I Had A Dog” or “Embody” or “What If”, make me really excited about seeing the band live again, and interested to hear Frankie Cosmos’s next album, hopefully entitled Stop Asking Me About A Fish Called Wanda and Gremlins.