It takes a lot of nerve, or just plain honesty, to call your new album’s opening number The Odyssey. In eighteen minutes, the Frank Flight Band validate that, as they veer from snarling Stonesy rock, to heavy soul, swaying country clang, an electrified raga and a searing guitar boogie on the way out. This music isn’t for people with short attention spans, but their new record, Impossibly Obscure – streaming at youtube – could be the high point of an already brilliant if underrated career. And that includes the apocalyptic, visionary Remains album as well as the more Doors/Santana-influenced Outrunning the Sun.
On one hand, you could make the case that the Frank Flight Band are the British Blue Oyster Cult. But the Southport-based group are a lot more diverse, and lyrically sharp. Guitarist Frank Flight is neither the lead instrumentalist nor the singer in this project, but instead surrounds himself with a shifting cast of musicians who bring many different shades of brilliance to his darkly psychedelic, frequently epic songs.
The group’s latest addition, keyboardist and lead singer Michael Woody Woodward contributes that first magnum opus. We hear the ocean lapping the shore as the first anxious, spare twin-guitar theme flickers into focus in this metaphorically bristling, desperate account of disaster and a herculean effort to reclaim lost time. Lead guitarist Alex Kenny fires off one slashing, succinct, Gilmouresque lead after another over Danny Taylor’s spare, melodic bass and Dave Veres’s understatedly colorful drumwork.
Taylor’s strutting bass pushes the second track, Well Connected, a snarling broadside aimed at a corrupt, sinister Boris Johnson type, Woodward’s organ and synthesized orchestration over the snappy forward drive.
Flight flings out icily luscious layers of jangle and clang to open Dead on Arrival, a practically thirteen-minute opus that evokes the Doors as much as his band’s own magnificently ominous Dark Waters, from the Remains record. The contrast between Kenny’s purist, piercingly bluesy leads and Woodward’s symphonic sweep, a persistent trope throughout the album, comes into sharp focus here.
The band switch between a relentlessly creepy, crawling chromatic theme and Lynchian Orbison noir sweep in Not If But When, an allusively imagistic portrait of a world at the edge of collapse. This could be the theme song for 2022.
They make a big, emphatic psychedelic anthem out of a vintage 60s soul tune in Medicine Man, a cautionary tale about pharmaceuticals (the kind people do for fun) with a spiraling Woodward piano solo. Flight adds layers acoustic guitar and mandolin to the sepulchrally ringing mix in Tango for Lost Souls, a gorgeously swaying coastal tableau: “Haunted eyes turn like daggers when the music starts to play.”
The band take a surprising turn into brisk folk noir to introduce the final cut, Man in Red, then rise to an angst-fueled 6/8 sway on the wings of Kenny’s incisive volleys of blues. We’re about halfway through the year and there hasn’t been a rock record released this year that can touch this. Fans of the visionary dark psychedelic classics: Floyd, the Doors, peak-era Nektar, and the first four BOC records will love this album.