Martin Frawley - Undone At 31 - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Martin Frawley - Undone At 31

by Mark Moody Rating:8 Release Date:2019-02-22
Martin Frawley - Undone At 31
Martin Frawley - Undone At 31

It’s fairly safe to say that Martin Frawley wasn’t graced with the most rock ’n’ roll of names.  The former Twerps (alas, they are no more) leader and founder’s name is more likely to inspire visions of your dad’s tax accountant than the melodic fail safe that he has proven to be.  But the indignities don’t end here for poor Frawley.  His first solo album, Undone at 31, not only details the unwinding of a long term relationship, but evidence abounds that his musical companions could give two flips about it.  While Frawley recounts the most miserable times of moping and drowning one’s sorrows, his accompanists sound like they are having the time of their lives.

The sound and spirit that Undone most brings to mind are the “angry young man” era of early Elvis Costello and Joe ‘Is She Really Going Out With Him’ Jackson.  Steve Nieve and the Thomas boys (aka The Attractions) always flailed away regardless of their boss’ trials and tribulations.  While the dominant bass work of Gus Lord recalls the Look Sharp! stylings of long time Jackson bassist Graham Maby.  Along with Lord, the other culprits consist of co-producer and piano/synth wizard Stewart Bronaugh (of Angel Olsen’s band) and the slightly more sympathetic Matthew Harkin on drums.

Before his band puts their stamp fully on the proceedings, things start off innocently enough with the acoustic guitar strum intro of ‘You Want Me?’  The song recounts Frawley’s full life up to this point over its five minutes.  Awkward childhood giving way to stealing away a friend’s girl to the end of the relationship.  For you gossips that must know, Frawley's long time girlfriend was fellow Twerp Jules McFarlane.  The guitar strum is slowly overpowered by a more dominant melody on piano which is then overtaken by synths.  Bronaugh’s presence over the album feels a more organic and benevolent Eno-esque force coloring up most every track on the album.  The song also comes off as a “meta” moment with the shadow of Dylan’s ‘You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go’ casting both melody and theme over the song. 

The livelier, but more depressing, ‘End Of The Bar’ is flavored with barrelhouse piano fills that maybe fit the watering hole theme better than at first notice.  Though facing off against a rebound relationship, the keys battling out against a distorted guitar dominate the angrier sound of ‘What’s On Your Mind’.  Lord’s bass work bounds around all over the song like a Muppet on Adderall.  Further in, ‘Chain Reaction’ feels ripped right from the ‘Sunday Papers’ of Jackson’s earliest work.  Frawley’s sneered inflection, Lord’s thumpity thump, and the crybaby chorus makes for a fun-filled romp that hides the unravelling romance at the heart of the song.  Most will relate to the dreaded moment when something has to be said at the expense of harmony - Frawley puts it forth as “this will probably ruin our night” but it’s swept up in the lively cadence of the song.

There are some quieter, more Dylan like moments on tracks like ‘Just Like The Rest’ and ‘Lo and Behold’ (though the latter’s not a cover).  The former song somehow brought to mind the fleeting marriage of Julia Roberts and Lyle Lovett when Frawley complains “she didn’t love my heart she loved my songs.”  Proving the potency of poetry can work wonders at least for a while.  The short country weeper of ‘Lo and Behold’ shows yet another effective way to cast Frawley's sad tale. 

Things even get a little atmospheric and synth-heavy towards the end, but strong melodies abound nonetheless.  The strings filtering through ‘Something About Me’ flavor that track perfectly.  The spacier tracks at the end make for a gentle pulsing out, but Frawley sings at his most plaintive and pleading on the final song leaving the door at least slightly ajar for another chance. 

Undone at 31 is likely to be one of the happiest sounding and most varied break-up albums you will ever hear.  You hate to wish misery on anyone, but if this is the result then maybe just a bit more as he goes along.  His bandmates certainly don’t seem to want the party to end.  With friends like that who needs friends.  Frawley is a talented songwriter and all kidding aside has surrounded himself with an outstanding musical cast.  Until Well Played at 68 comes along, I welcome whatever else he might serve up to us in the future.


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