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MUSIC & ART

A hard drive hard to pigeonhole

By toe-tapping hack Ignatius Rake

Posted June 22, 2012
frank's hard drive
Hard Drive live: Four of the five Franks on stage. © FHD (we think)

Some bands are easy to categorise as sounding like someone else. Not so Frank's Hard Drive, whose debut EP has just been released on Half Eaten.


Hot on the heels of reissuing Supine Orchestra's excellent debut album Stumble, Mumble... Talk, everybody's favourite indie label Half Eaten Records has now further widened its product basket with the launch of an eponymous EP by Frank's Hard Drive (FHD), available either as a download or a CD.

Based in Krakow, Poland and comprised of five male expats, the band, weirdly enough, take their name from a hard drive belonging to a person called Frank.

Hard to accept, I know, but, so the story goes, this Frank chap had been living in Poland only to up sticks for China, leaving behind his hard drive in the process.

Whether he forgot to pack it or it somehow fell out of his laptop as he got into his taxi to the airport is something we'll probably never know.

However, what we can assume is that some or indeed all of the members of FHD had a mooch round its contents and very much liked what they found.

In fact, these nosey-muso-parkers were so inspired by what they discovered they decided to form a band.

As you do.


ENTER THE TRUMPET
Exactly what was on that hard drive (which is now safely back in Frank's possession) is open to speculation, although it would seem it wasn't chock-a-block with scud movies as this would probably have inspired them to do something much more private instead.

One theory as to its contents is that it contained at least one picture of a trumpet.

FHD, you see, like to play with their horn in public as opposed to stroking it on the quiet in front of some digitised Billy Bongo.

This in itself makes them stand out from other bands: instead of letting the lead guitarist (in this case Drunk Frank) wank off on stage, they actively encourage a certain Hairy Athletic Frank to get his coiled brass pipe out and start blowing it hard in front of both men and women alike.

Of course, brass instruments are not new to the world of rock music – Kult, for example, have a French horn player while the Black and White Menstrual Show featured a man called Waller on cornet1.

Normally, though, trumpets are simply the preserve of session musicians and backing bands.

As such, their sole purpose is to play the odd incidental, at best being thrown into the mix by a producer wanting to add a little pizzazz to an otherwise flat chorus.

This is most definitely not the case with FHD.

On each of the EP's seven tracks (I remember when you used to get just four) Hairy Athletic's trumpet shines out like the Eddystone Lighthouse.

While he doesn't go all Louis Armstrong/Miles Davis/Howard Moon by playing jazz solo after jazz solo, Hairy Athletic's completely non-jazz presence is nonetheless a constant throughout this punchy recording, giving it a distinctive sound and feel you simply don't come across every day.


frank’s hard drive
Never point a trumpet at anyone: Hang on, where's the other one gone? © FHD (we hope)


SOUNDS A BIT LIKE...
And in terms of sounds, it's quite possible that the original Frank had a large selection of tunes on that hard drive he left behind in Poland.

However, whether he was one of those people who can be arsed to go round naming all their MP3s, let alone classifying them by artiste and genre, is a moot point, although I'll wager he wasn't.

According to their ReverbNation page, FHD are musically akin to "Pavement, Wilco, Radiohead, the Beatles[and] Big Star".

Of those bands, I must confess that the only ones I really know/know I've heard are Radiohead and the Beatles.

The former I would describe as painfully dull, which is certainly not what I'd call FHD, who, unlike Radiohead, can clearly afford a metronome that goes above largo.

As for the Theo Adorno All Stars, well, with the exception of some of the bass lines and maybe the vocals on Preoccupied, I again fail to see the connection.

In fact, I'm not really sure how to classify FHD full stop, which is terribly vexing because as everybody knows the primary purpose of a music journo is to lazily pigeonhole every band that comes their way by saying they sound like a dubstep Joy Division playing thrash metal on a wooden kazoo, or whatever.

The thing is, I can't even describe FHD as 'experimental' because they don't play atonal vegetable synths.

Based on this top-notch EP, what I would say if pushed is that FHD don't play death metal, hip-hop, hardcore punk or slushy love ballads.

Instead, they tend to play fairly upbeat melodic stuff that even when Contemplative Frank the singer gets a bit sweary or berates a driver for trying to knock him down is still rather uplifting.

Not that this is throwaway bubble-gum pap, mind.


frank’s hard drive
No bum notes: Randy Frank on drums and spoons. © FHD (possibly)


A BIT LIKE... ER... A BIT LIKE...
A lot of the lyrics, such as on The Maid, for example, hint at something seething just beneath the surface.

Meanwhile, the guitars, although clean and jangly in places, can also be fairly heavy and rather gritty in a kinda belligerently sort of misanthropic kinda way.

Kinda sort of.

Indeed, the best I can get to pigeonholing FHD is to say that Driver makes me think of the Coral.

But even then I can't say they sound like them.

Part of the difficulty with trying to stick FHD into a neat little box stems from that darn trumpet, which gives the band a generally bright and happy sound (as exemplified by Playground) even when the subject of the song is anything but.

And while the thought of a bright and happy sound is anathema to any moody goth or miserable Morrissey wannabe, this actually makes for a rather refreshing change from the indie norm, even if it is bloody confusing for a hack to get his head round in a thousand words or less.

Of course, I could just be spouting a load of old guff out my own brown trumpet.

In which case, you'd better click on this link and give the Hard Drive a listen yourself.

Enjoy.

Just don't bother trying to pigeonhole them.


Footnote

1) Weirdly, like Hairy Athletic Frank, Waller also had a beard.


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