Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Matt Oliver, Mastered by Sam Patlove
There's no telling what the limits are on how bearish Frank Smith lead singer and songwriter Aaron Sinclair might be get. It doesn't seem that he wishes to be so bearish, it just comes out that way sometimes. He'd like to reverse it if he could. He and the people he dreams up in his songs are those who have been treading water for a while and they're tired. They've been out there in the blue, with an endless bottom and lord knows what's out there to get them. They've been swimming and resting, swimming and resting and their bodies just can't take it too much longer. It can only go on for so long and then you either need someone to come along to the rescue or you need to just plunge, sink like gravity's been waiting for you to do for the longest time. The eyes have sort of gone blank or swirly, whatever the medical term is for reaching that glazed point where nothing much is making sense, or nothing much is working out the way anyone would want it to be working out. It's the point where you either throw your hand of cards up in the air or just flip the table, letting the table do the job for you. You've not given up, but you're resigned to the idea that things have gone out of control and there's not much roping them in that's ever going to be accomplished. So, you're looking to the skies, or old men or old women for some guidance.
Sinclair sings on "Lovesick Cynics," from one of the group's older records, "Heavy Handed Peace & Love," "Could you help me?/Could you give me some wisdom?/My mama always tells me/That all I have to do is ask/If there's no shoulder to cry on/I'm gonna empty this flask/The old-fashioned way." It's the one thing that he can count on for getting over that hump or around that corner, if the request for advice isn't granted. This is a little like grasping for straws, but knowing that - should all else fail - there's a jug of the hot stuff over there in the corner that's always inviting and always willing to smooth things over. It seems like much of the dissatisfaction could be coming from the other side of the bed though. It's being projected over the sheets and into the bowels of the other heart. It's to be paid attention to. It has to be felt to be appreciated. It has to be lived to be understood. It's the kind of sentiment or sensation that, if it is being felt on the other side of the bed, is never going to winnow itself out. It's going to grow into a mongoloid of a problem, a big, bad baby in the room that - for agreeable reasons - is not imaginary and it's hard to budge.
The soul of a Frank Smith song, then and now, has been he amount of nothing or the amount of something that exists for these people at its center. There's usually more of the emptiness, but it's not the kind that makes anyone want to quit on life. It's more the emptiness that's meant to mean that there should be more. "Nineteen," the title track from the band's latest album, is a perfect example, where there's someone lacking the full amount of happiness that they should have and there's someone else worried about it, wishing that they could help. Sinclair happens to be that fount, singing, "I wish I could make you feel something/Make you hurt or happy/Make your eyes close/Make your stomach burn at night/Make the lights go bright by the moon/Make the day go dark/Make the sun fall." More eyes glowing and more stomachs burning. It's a simple request. Now, who knows the best way to that end?