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  For the Birds 
Artist: The Frames 
Label:Plateau Records/2001 
Length: 52 minutes 

There are two phenomenons in the world of Glen Hansard and The Frames. The first is that they have never exploded into one of the most successful bands of the past ten years, and the second is that they have kept going even when all of their various record labels have failed to develop their great work into that of world domination. 

So they deserve a Grammy for perseverance at the very least.  Their fourth album, For the Birds, is a piece of total and utter beauty - and, within weeks of release, is their most successful album to date. Maybe, as it did with David Gray, their faith in their own music (or distaste in doing a real job!) will pay off and at last the world will open its ears to exceptional talent. Indeed, Gray may have been a bit of an influence in the sonic shift that is For the Birds. It sits on the same sound shelf as White Ladder.  Although they have rejected the art in songwriting for a very long time, the Irish can be proud that they still believe in the poetry and melody of the song. That was what welcomed Gray in from the wilderness and gave him the oasis that would then make the country of his birth wake up to what they had missed. Gray in turn has birthed (or at least encouraged) a little underground Dublin scene that is beginning to pop its heads above the burrows and force the punters to listen; Paddy Casey, Juliet Turner, David Kitt, and the Frames are but a few. 

If you were there when Hansard left his busking post on O’Connell Street to light up the stages of Dublin and London with his early 90’s Waterboys’ raggle taggle with a good dose of Pixies’ bite, then you might not even recognize the gentleness of this latest incarnation. The opener doesn’t hit you in the face or the grooves of your feet with anything like "The Dancer" did on Another Love Song. Here there is an instrumental with a piano that would not have been out of place on Morrison’s most healing work "Poetic Champions Compose," and the overall sound is mellow with a vulnerable vocal performance by Hansard. "Giving Me Wings", "What Happens When The Heart Stops," "Disappointed," and "Friends and Foes" are particularly fragile with the last of the three owning the most poignant of lamenting fiddles. Scrumptious. If that opening, "In the Deep Shade" indicates the healing has begun, then by the time you’ve gone through "Lay Me Down to Headlong" you are utterly changed and just basking in stripped-down lo-fi heaven. And that’s only four tracks in! On "Headlong" and elsewhere there may be builds and crescendos of a more amp filling kind but even here there are few rough and raucous edges just louder avenues of that same heaven. 

I’ll be spending a lot of time around the gold paved sounds of For the Birds for a long time to come. 

Steve Stockman 5/19/2001
 

Steve Stockman is a Chaplain at Queens University, Belfast, Ireland, where he lives in community with 88 students. He used to book the bands for Greenbelt, edits Juice magazine, has a weekly radio show on BBC Radio Ulster and a web page - Rhythms of Redemption at http://stocki.ni.org. He also tries to spend some time with his wife Janice and daughters Caitlin and Jasmine.
   
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