After a delay due to backed-up pressing plants (a chronic problem exacerbated by dubious major-label reissues), S.S. Records finally re-released on wax A Frames' first two classic albums in January. A Frames (2002) and 2 (2003) represent some of the greatest rock music that this city produced in the '00s—or in any decade, for that matter. Noisy yet melodic, mechanically rigid yet danceable, A Frames' music exudes a scalding, scathing power and an acerbic lyrical slant that has been pretty much unparalleled in our rock scene since then.
A Frames established the group's—guitarist/vocalist Erin Sullivan, drummer Lars Finberg, and bassist Min Yee—concise, catchy songwriting approach. Its 11 songs—which run only 26 minutes—carry a pitch-black, astringent mood yet the overall effect is exhilaration. Dig the wonderful paradox of sounds that reek of bleakness and spite triggering a speedy buzz. It's pretty wry that A Frames' most romantic-sounding tune, "Surveillance," is an ode to a surveillance camera. A Frames is an incredible debut, one of those rare works where every song competes for favorite status at different stages of your life and which defies the passage of time to remain evergreen, ever mean, and ever lean.
2 finds A Frames using a sparser, often more methodical attack that recalls the caustic yet tuneful post-punk of Wire and Gang of Four and the nerve-jangling no wave of Contortions without obviously homaging them. In "Togetherness," Sullivan rhymes "bacterium" with "delirium," which neatly encapsulates A Frames' worldview. Biology is always enmeshed in psychology and eschatology. Titles like "Wasteland," "Nuclear," "Counter Evolution," "Skeletons," and "Archaeology" telegraph the band's obsession with self-defeating human behavior and dystopian outcomes, but the effect is never clichéd, as this sort of topical territory is wont to be. And if we were a more advanced species, "Futureworld" and "Search and Rescue" would've been hits.
Long out of print, A Frames' first two white-knuckled, black-hearted LPs remain towering testaments to the group's perfect synthesis of sound and words, an eloquent expression of pessimistic art that fills the listener with righteous energy.