Frontier(s) – The Plains b/w Radiomine

Frontiers - The Plains 7"Louisville, Kentucky is a town I know by musical reputation and little else. It’s produced and been home to an impressive roster of bands over the years from Slint to the hardcore/metal acts I’m more familiar with like Black Cross, Breather Resist, Abscise and Sardaukar (okay, I mainly know the latter because of the Dune reference). Whatever it is they put in the water over there clearly works… and so to Frontier(s), a band fronted by ex-Elliott / Falling Forward frontman Chris Higdon and backed by members of Automatic, Mouthpiece and Stay Gold.

I’ve never listened to a great deal of Elliott though they’ve appeared on a few compilations and mixtapes I’ve been sent over the years, and going back to listen to those tracks indicates that Frontier(s) are not pushing far outside Higdon’s comfort zone. This is not inherently a bad thing, though it’s a shame that after 8 years of Elliott there’s no drive to bust open new ground. But hey, I’m a fan of Snuff and their only attempt to do something different produced a terrible trip-hop song so it’s no bad thing to stick with what you’re good at.

So, the two tracks on this here 7″ single are big alt-rock songs with a distinctly Midwestern kinda edge – I can’t pin that down, I guess it’s just got that kind of reminescent sound. The band is occasionally described as post-hardcore and I guess that’s true insofar as “hardcore > emo > this release” provides a rough map of the members’ career paths, but in terms of the music you’ll hear some snatches of riffs and licks that betray roots in the mellower side of emo but nothing more distinct.

So far I’ve spent an awful lot of words on what Frontier(s) are not and that is pretty unfair; no band should be defined by what they are not (unless what they are not is “any good”). So what are Frontier(s)? Well, they’re a band of guys doing what they know how to do well. There’s some quality musicianship and songcrafting on display here, and whilst the first spin of this 7″ didn’t catch me I’ve found myself coming back to it a few times. Both tracks are characterised by pounding drums and strong, melodic bass with interwoven guitar lines and dramatically earnest vocals. ‘The Plains’ is a more upbeat-sounding track than the morose but rocking ‘Radiomine’; that said, I’m pretty sure neither is intended to be a party tune.

It’s a bit of a cheap conclusion to write this, but I would recommend Frontier(s) to fans of Elliott as these two tracks from Frontier(s) are not hugely dissimilar from that band’s output, albeit with a more mainstream alt-rock sound and (dare I say it) more confident and accomplished if less iconic songwriting. It’s also worth a listen by anyone who digs quality rock music although you probably won’t find yourself blown away.

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