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For the first 20 pounding seconds of opener “You For Me,” and never again, Herein Wild suggests that Frankie Rose might stray into something a little messier after last year’s faultless, chaos-banishing Interstellar. But her music’s wildness will always be contained by the brilliance of her idea-making, the new album’s title says, so when the drums and carefully distorted guitars cut out, leaving Rose’s crystal voice hanging in the void, any notion that it might have been otherwise seems in hindsight a bit naïve. Herein Wild ends up one of the most straightforward sequels a great album ever had, and its difference in mood can probably just be attributed to a somewhat more variable quality and smaller number of sublime, serene and euphoric moments.
That sudden empty space right at the beginning, wherein familiarity registers as surprise after a bit of clever misdirection, is among the truly inspired moments, even as it marks the beginning of the album’s adherence to the Interstellar template. After the cold open, “You For Me” moves between propulsive rock ‘n’ roll and the infinite rewards of genuine takeoff, and yet these two poles lock the song in place. For Rose’s band, letting go is impossible and transcendence is found in limitation. This was a novel realization last year, and now Herein Wild proves why the formula was so malleable and satisfying in the first place, via steadfast implementation.
From there, we can go about pairing Herein Wild’s songs with their corresponding tracks on Interstellar, noting similarities and variations, instances of claustrophobia and sinking feelings traded for sky searching and solace, bass melodies traded for guitar melodies, vice versa. For example, Rose trades “Daylight Sky” for “The Depths,” and then elaborates: The drama of “Cliffs As High,” transmitted by piano and strings (the album’s most striking sonic development), is the equal and inverse of “Pair of Wings,” and its darker beauty is essentially determined by the lowered tilt of Rose’s head from her high perch. She’s always confronting some vast nothing, ready to either drown or ascend. Earlier, “Into Blue” lines up with the immortal “Gospel/Grace” and reminds that most of Interstellar’s best melodies were concealed in bass lines, but despite its lovely tug it doesn’t find as many openings for dynamic bass/guitar interplay, and instead redoubles the efforts of its ringing guitars. “Sorrow” almost repurposes the bright melody of “Know Me,” removing a layer of tension by placing it in less melancholic surroundings and then adding a new one with the irony of its title word. “Don’t ask me why there’s so much trouble / Constantly sifting through rubble,” Rose sings. If that image proves a bit hard to see through the clean lines of the music, that’s because there’s no rubble in Rose’s city sounds, yet to be broken in the material world.
And that’s only Herein Wild’s first half. This kind of one-to-one comparison might seem reductive, but it should do no damage to Rose’s art. There’s endless possibility in every modest fluctuation of her music, along with a sort of reality denial that’s wise and not detached. But since the music requires the total removal of dangerous texture, it really has to succeed on the strength of the songs and melodies, and find danger there. See the cover of The Damned’s “Street of Dreams,” as immaculately rendered as anything else on the album, even as it comes from a history of outcast invitation songs, luring the listener away from ideas and into shadowy half-real spaces. Among such standouts, some of these new songs aren’t quite as good as what’s already been proven possible, but again the ideas are clear and anchored by the array of elements introduced on Interstellar—a highly idiosyncratic and reproducible work, looking back. Rose created her new rules for rock music, or rather refined the way rock elements interact until they could dance around each other like vacuum cleaners, and now benefits from the work. Best of all is her voice, weightless and always with that superhuman ringing quality, the final special effect the music needs to be classified as a bewildering non-object.
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