Frontier Ruckus Sitcom Afterlife

[Quite Scientific; 2014]

Styles: folk rock, nostalgia, poetry, pop
Others: you know

The gleaming core, the dirty core, the dead and sighing core of what it means when some Buzzfeed quiz on your stream asks if you’re a “90s Kid.” It means nothing, just slips of television and all of that waiting stuff in your memory, making up a personality, making up an agent in the present. Because you were born then or you grew up then. It stretches up until almost now. “Summer of 2007,” when you met your first teen luv, is the inheritor of “Summer of 1997,” when you first saw that dried-up beetle under your aunt’s coffee table and knew death. It only matters or coheres for you. Inner mythologies, patterns, rituals, codes, and languages. You translate, you age, fuck you.

Eternity of Dimming alchemized the detritus of wistful vectors, all tangled. Which year was that? 1999? 2013? There was a new sound on that album, something both common and sharply specific. Here and there, Sitcom Afterlife finds Frontier Ruckus retrying, recasting its own discography. But the fourth album, especially an album following a double album of such consistent strength as Eternity of Dimming, is almost always an awkward step.

The rhythm, yarn-like, of Matthew Milia’s sung verse keeps unwinding, as if it never stopped, as if we just left the room for a year and now, upon returning, find him still going. It’s a rant, it’s a poem, it’s hit-or-miss (though mostly hit), it’s nostalgia-as-flood, and it’s like nothing else. It’s when Milia slows down his speech, as on “Bathroom Stall Hypnosis,” that listener enthusiasm slips and one begins to be able to pick apart what exactly goes on in a Frontier Ruckus song. Maybe the syllables stretch too far? Stylistically, the album’s single and sort-of mission statement”Sad Modernity” indicates both what sort of experience Sitcom Afterlife is and what sort of band Frontier Ruckus has become: troubadour folk rock, which served as a guiding force on albums one through three, is here split almost evenly with a twee-poet simplicity.

Cosmic fires still cast lights on the suburbs of the past, though: “Crabapples In The Centuries Storm” is as intense and as anxious as any song Milia has written, and “Down In The Morning We Thought We’d Never Lose” houses a romanticism both self-aware and earnest. Though, nostalgia is too pigeonholing an emotion to use as often as Frontier Ruckus has used it, and really, on paper, they should fail (who can pull off the bajo-toting folk rock band image after Mumford et al. so entirely moved bowels on it?); but I’ve yet to encounter a song by the band that hasn’t struck some sad nerve in me. Sitcom Afterlife is, without any doubt, a letdown after the world-creating power and self-actualized sound of Eternity of Dimming, but it is on par with the band’s earlier albums and serves as an example of the prudence of musical evolution not in fits and starts, but in incremental growths, additions, subtractions, and changes. As ever, Frontier Ruckus deserves more attention than they’re getting

Links: Frontier Ruckus - Quite Scientific

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