Having never heard Frankie and The Witch Fingers before, I expected the proceeding 34 minutes to be a morose journey of cinematic surrealism. Even the album’s cover, a naked torso and head with eyes obscured by flowers laying atop rugged concrete doused in red, lead me to believe it would be some sort of Black Dahlia; a homage to the grotesque photography of Man Ray.
In a way, what I did hear was kinda grotesque. Sidewalk is yet another disappointing add-on of the 4th wave of garage rock, indistinguishable from all its contemporaries in the only genre to have become more of a parody of oneself than contemporary death rock. This album is in many ways the same as Shark?’s album Savior, also released in 2013, only with weaker songwriting and overindulgence of rock’n’roll antics.
The only redeemable tracks (out of 12) are Ferris Wheel, a slightly unique song with Nick Nicely or Holger Czukay-esque psychedelia and song My Love, in which the singer’s incessant wailing gives it a go at making me not mention the song entirely. Seemingly undeterred, over the rest of the album Frankie and The Witch Fingers give it their all at getting me to stop listening entirely! I didn’t. I kinda wish I did, but I didn’t.
Comparatively, originality came in spades from the original incarnation of garage rock grappling with beatlemania, its 80s and 90s counterparts reinvigorated by punk, and 00s by degrees of commercial accessibility and further artistic success. Why has garage rock become such a bad joke? Every guy and gal an Easy Rider wannabe, drenched in high-waisted denim and leather tasseled jackets. I once saw the frontman of a garage rock band leave after load-in, only so he could ride up to the venue on his motorcycle, inevitably pushing everyone’s collective set-times back by 15 minutes.
In an interview with Jesse Thorn in 2011, music cultural theorist and author Simon Reynolds observed that “…[ideas of] authenticity came from feeling that someone else has more of it than you, that you don’t have it. A lot of it relates to white middle class people feeling a little hollow in some way. They feel like other people are leading realer lives than them. In the early days of rock music, rock and pop, used to be a real-time thing, it would be like The Rolling Stones admiring Howling Wolf and Muddy Waters, relatively recent records. But now it’s much more likely to be located in the past…
…I thought things would be weirder and stranger in the 21st century than that. Some trouble with that assuming of authenticity through somebody else’s style is that you inevitably produce something that’s false. It doesn’t have anything of you in it, that’s the crucial difference I think.”
If you’re looking for the anti-chic records of days gone by, you can check out our article CHASING GHOSTS: An Interview With Lost RPM’s Jeffrey Harvey.
For fans of: Thee Oh Sees, Shark?, Caesars