Upon high school graduation, former Dum Dum Girl Frankie Rose may have been voted least likely to take listeners on a trip to Interstellar space, but that’s where she’s going on her new solo release. Perhaps she’s been reading up on her science fiction. Rose has also left the Outs behind on her launch pad and is zipping past the starlings of the slipstream, forging a galactic path of guitar and synth-driven spaciousness. Having said that, this isn’t the crazed lurching forward velocity of Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive”; in fact, it’s more like Interstellar is in neutral, but that doesn’t mean she has not created a wonderful space to explore.
The title track and kick-off cut nicely synthesizes a summary of the lyrical and musical themes that recur throughout the record, from its sprawling orchestration to its soaring vocals and synthesizer bed. “Daylight Sky” begins in media res with a very New Order/OMD moment, but quickly mines the ex-Viv Girls girl-group vibe with a Peter Gabriel-esque vamping vibe, and “Apples for the Sun” adds high Beach Boys-style harmonies to even further smooth down the groove; it seems less a song than an ambient meditation.
Whereas “Daylight Sky” crafted an electro vibe reminiscent of Gary Numan’s “Cars,” the next track, “Pair of Wings” merges Zooey Deschanel with David Bowie, as the wide-eyed, unaffected innocence of Deschanel meets the stellar grandiloquence of the Ziggy Stardust-era output of the Thin White Duke. Although the language is rooted and “perched upon the city on a pair of power lines,” the music creates such an ambiance of longing for escape that it fairly slips “the surly bonds of earth.” It does so to such a great extent, in fact, that the song seems to have no rock anchor; it’s hard to say whether it’s more reminiscent of the downbeat vibe of 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love” or the ethereal journey of A Flock of Seagulls’ “Space Age Love Song.”
Rose furthers the 1980s vibe by echoing the guitar parts of Pat Benatar’s “Love Is a Battlefield,” on “Know Me,” although it sounds like it’s played by Vampire Weekend (who themselves cribbed significantly from early MTV one-hit wonders Haircut 100). “The Fall” presents a noodling guitar meditation with an airy backing and first single “Gospel/Grace” echoes the chord progression from Duran Duran’s post-fame “Ordinary World” single but in the end sounds like an organic Stereolab doing a Velvet Underground song. In retrospect, it’s not that much of a reach, and it’s surprising no one else has done this, at least not as well.
On “Night Swim” more than any of the other tracks, it’s clear that she’s a graduate of the schools of Crystal Stilts and Vivian Girls, with its 1950s-’60s girl-group harmonies and reverb-soaked electric guitar lightning strikes interspersed throughout. The gorgeously melodic “Moon in My Mind” more than makes up for it—it sounds like a merger between the washed out sounds of M83 and Beach House.
Rose has created an interesting vision of a space voyage on Interstellar, and it’s an entertaining listen, but it’s a shame that it seems like an early ’80s new-wave vision of space as opposed to something that’s totally new and different. In the 1953 3D movie “It Came From Outer Space,” the aliens were so ugly that those that saw them literally passed out from the shock and disgust—the original screenplay was penned by science fiction author Ray Bradbury. Regrettably, there’s nothing here that makes the listener that uncomfortable; in other words, it’s not a very challenging listen, but it’s a pleasant journey nonetheless.
Frankie Rose — Interstellar tracklist:
- “Know Me”
- “Daylight Sky”
- “Pair of Wings”
- “Had We Had It”
- “Night Swim”
- “Apples for the Sun”
- “Moon in My Mind”
- “The Fall”