CD Review of The Sweet Songs of Decay by Frank Bango
Recommended if you like
Elvis Costello, Kinks, Matthew Sweet
Label
Sincere Recording Company
Frank Bango:
The Sweet Songs of Decay

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

F
our albums on, the only question concerning Frank Bango is, why the heck isn’t this guy a star… or better yet, a major star at that? That’s not just a casual query – in fact, even those who haven’t heard his earlier efforts will probably ponder that proposition after an encounter with The Sweet Songs of Decay, an album that boasts a cryptic title but an obviously accessible sound. Bango’s clearly listened to a lot of Brit-rock in his time; he channels the Kinks, Elvis Costello, Robyn Hitchcock and practically everyone else with an Anglophile influence. Like his forebears, he draws from a rich pop palette, using idyllic imagery and sophisticated songcraft to etch a lingering impression. If this isn’t the album of the year, suffice it to say it’s one of the major contenders.

Naturally, one of the marks of a great record is the impact it creates on first listen, and in that regard, The Sweet Songs of Decay leaves no doubt as to its durability. Bookended by the chirps of birds of various varieties (all of which are detailed in the inner sleeve), the disc formally begins with “You Always Begin by Saying Goodbye,” which finds Bango’s sleepy vocals starting the set off on a gentle caress. It’s then left to “I Saw the Size of the World,” “Summerdress,” “Napoleon Again” and “International Sign for Sorry” to provide the rousing wake-up call, each an example of how a celebratory sound can become instantly infectious.

As the names of the songs imply, Bango possesses a quirky streak that seems to go hand-in-hand with his tender touch. “If a Plane Goes Down,” an otherwise somber piano ballad, has the narrator offering his lover some qualified devotion (“If a plane goes down, I’ll always hope it’s one you miss”). “Bunny in a Bunny Suit” finds Bango expressing his affection for an oversized bunny, while “She’ll Miss the Spider” takes a zealous housekeeper to task for destroying the habitat of the insect who was her home’s constant companion. The album’s most affecting entry comes in the form of “Angela Eagleton,” a poignant ode to an old school flame, and a song Ray Davies could easily mistake for one of his own.

Bango enhances these delightful vignettes with lush arrangements and deft touches – a cooing chorus here, a hint of strings there, and occasional wacky dialogue interspersed in the songs. Mostly though, it’s the swaying, soaring, indelible melodies that affirm Bango’s brilliance while making his songs all the sweeter still.

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