They're huge in Ireland. And well, pretty much everywhere else, actually, except for the US of A. Dublin's The Frames have built up a reputation as one of Ireland's biggest rock exports since U2, with their specialty of epic, heartfelt rock anthems. Their sixth album, The Cost, is a solid set of impressively swelling and majestic songs. Elements of Coldplay, The Dave Matthews Band, and early Radiohead can be found in their soaring sound.
The Frames (the band's name comes from lead singer Glen Hansard's bicycle fixing hobby) have been churning along since 1990, spawned from Dublin's pub rock scene. But their ambition marks them as a lot more than a bar band – the songs on The Cost take on weighty notions of love and faith. Hansard has a yearning, strong voice, but the five-piece band's secret weapon is violinist Colm Mac Con Iomaire. His fine playing hides in amongst the swelling rock guitar chords, lending a sturdy foundation to the tunes.
I caught The Frames live on a recent opening slot for Bob Dylan in New Zealand, and the songs take on a fiery new dimension live that the mellower ambiance of The Cost sometimes doesn't quite capture – sparkling, gripping onstage jams translate into a few rather lifeless slow ballads on the album. The best two songs on The Cost are "Sad Songs" and "Song For Someone," which don't abandon hooks as they strive for an emotional connection. "Sad Songs" is the kind of gorgeous anthem that should be played at a thousand high school prom slow dances, while in "Song For Someone" Hansard belts out a terrific loud/soft/loud chorus that explodes with tension.
While they aren't a household name in America – yet – The Frames offer up appealingly universal songs. The Cost is worth checking out.