The 'acoustic' album is invariably the last refuge of a down-at-heel-scoundrel, second only to the 'covers'
album, but for Roddy Frame it may yet be his saving grace.
As with fellow floppy-fringed bedsit romantic, Lloyd Cole, Frame brought about his own decline in the 90's
by allowing his music to be murdered in its cradle by bland arrangements and dull session johnnies. And,
hey, maybe after 15 years he'd also ran out of new things to say.
This time, though, it's just one guitar, a voice and a torrent of stripped-bare thirtysomething heartbreak.
Recorded with a couple of mikes on an Apple Mac in Frame's front room, Surf seems to be a search for simple
truths, an antidote to a decade of seemingly having to make emotive records. It's mostly forlorn and genuinely
intense, a flood of carefully crafted words spilling out over complex, jazzy chord progressions and exquisitely
picked folk guitar. There are allusions to a past life of dark goings on "with the twilight crowd", a strong
sense of time and place (the "East End squares" of the title track), tales of broken relationships
(spell-binding opener Over You) and a general feeling of someone piecing together a new existence. Delightfully
subtle trainspotter references to Dylan and Bowie songs can also be found - if you know where to look.
Twelve songs of unembellished Roddy may be just a little too much to digest in one sitting, but this is a strong
reassertion of a formidable and alluring songsmith. And, yes, he still looks about 23.
Roddy Frame Talks to Pat Gilbert
The stripped-bare voice and guitar seems to have worked.
"I didn't want it to be like some old fart from the 80's making just another record. My albums always had an
acoustic song on them, and my acoustic sets always went down well live. I was also inspired by Paul Westerberg's
Suicaine Gratifaction album. Also, I'm 38 and it's just something I thought was long overdue."
These songs seem to have a dark, confessional edge.
"I'm not deliberately baring my soul. I didn't have a big plan. It was just a case of sitting down with some
ideas and a rhyming dictionary and working hard at writing the songs. A story with a happy ending in real life
might end up with a sad one in a song."
There are many references to London...
"I've lived here for 20 years and it's where my life and friends are. I'm not one of those Scots that moan
about the English. The city is very inspiring. I went to buy a pint of milk yesterday and saw Phil
Manzanera! That's what I like about this place."