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Frankie and the Witch Fingers – ZAM

By Jay Armstrong
Frankie and the Witch Fingers by David Evanko

Photo by David Evanko

Has it really been five years? Christ man, it all seems so distant, a fog between then and now, a dark dream of perseverance fringed with great times chasing off the complacency of the all around us. I’m still here, glad you are too. From the very start of ZAM (Greenway Records) I find myself warmed knowing not all predictions arrogantly made by my careless mouth have been found blind. Guess I got it right for once when going off on how Frankie and the Witch Fingers unfairly, unjustly, get labeled psychedelic as a result of our apparent need to kick everything these days into categorical submission instead of hearing it as “an arbitrary eruption of something which can’t be grasped or explicated” as Avital Ronnell might eloquently put it. This Bloomington,IN via Los Angeles band has had the grit since moment one to standout while surfing in the shadows of over-hyped bands such as The Black Angels and this album– given the odds aren’t completely fucked–has them on their way to proving the long term value in having ones own voice rather than parroting the status quo. These guys ride talent the way most Burger bands ride trends–no offense to Burger homies, I love some of you parrots too, being derivative isn’t the worst thing in the world, not everyone can be Dead Moon; not everyone could be Frankie and the Witch Fingers either.

Pressing play, things take off in a hum of orchestrated perfection, tiny hints of random instrumentation define the ether as it were four basement buds coming into practice, stretching in unison, we hear for the first time a band grown and growing into themselves. At minute two things dance off in perfection as if they somehow managed to bottle up the intelligent groove of The Mystery Lights into a Drunk Mums single. The Opener “Dracula Drug” is nine minutes long and better than any EP that hit my inbox last year. Although not even close to the strongest the album has to offer, if I were spinning records at 13th Floor this would probably be my go-to simply because it is a jammer long enough to catch a smoke break while on. If one were subscribing to the opinion of an opening track meant to lay the groundwork for the record that follows, which I most certainly do, Frankie and the Witch Fingers set the bar high and continue to reach it through the very end. ZAM is far more than fleeting, this record will be on the tip of our tongues for a long while.

The following songs “Work” and “Realization” come off as a band who, rather than allowing their egos to drive them individually to clamber me me me into the spotlight, have held themselves accountable, instead showing us how it would sound if all those paid positives on brotherly tight intuition were actually true about the capitalistic shit machine Greta Van Fleet. The two songs back-building through each other, by the time the solo splashes in on “Realization” we feel collectively as though we are running into battle against the bullshit pompous marketing teams chicken-hawking nineteen year olds with notable social media presence and somehow Frankie and the boys have us for a moment suspended in belief we are winning.

Pleasure” is probably the strongest standalone song of the two LPs. The band itself feels a bit more removed, their personality less defined, more in the way of Ty Segall than I would normally champion; that isn’t meant to be dismissive just Segall has a long running stance of leaving us as listener wondering where he is at in all of it, it is kind of his thing, something not typical with Frankie, yet having them get down on this pounding tribal homage to sexual energy sweaty venue good times will be euphoric melting together live at the feet of soon.

ZAM” moves them more in the way of what I would expect from Natural Child if Natural Child would get their heads back in the game. ZAM is the best rock n roll has to offer. Thank god they didn’t run with something potentially interpreted pompous such as “Dark Sorcerer” or “Underneath You,” they chose right going with this one and sticking it flat in the middle of the thing. ZAM is one of three clocking in just shy of nine minutes; I promise when this album hits the streets you will be as stoked as I am they didn’t dial it in; not a single moment on the record is wasted, not a single breath is cut short for the sake of making things more palatable to the layman. Frankie and the Witch Fingers are still doing it precisely their way through minds which prove on each new album to be hard on the grindstone for demanding respect. We are still learning who this band is, still figuring out where they are going, what they want to be about; if anyone had bigger expectations beyond what is done through ZAM, I’m all ears; listening to people talk shit about things they are completely dumb to is one of my favorite past-times.

Cobwebs” starts off as though it will be the low point, sludgy–but not in a cool way–a little too rhythmic without going anywhere, the whole thing downshifts momentarily into a drone which feels contrived, then twenty seconds later my foot is in my mouth as they tap the should of The Trashmen and post-Beach Boys early sixties rock n roll. One would assume it would be blase’ to mix things so drastically, the entire ride is saved through embracing only the potential within three separate songs and trimming them deliciously into one.

Photo by David Fearn

Photo by David Fearn

Dark Sorcerer” is the proper single whether anyone in their camp realizes it or not. “Purple Velvet” a tonal leaping euphoria Frankie continues to lift us into, a restatement of the experience they open the album up in without the teeth earlier shown, playing it safe on the surface while Sterling Morrison influences dodge the spotlight marking the dream constantly alluding our undivided below. “I Am” is similar to “Cobwebs” in that the band seems to know the precise moment to let a thought go, this time around they have it drop off at the minute mark rather than morphing the shape; having shown us what they can do already, they get in, get out, then move on. Without knowing beyond speculation, I can only assume there will be much more to “I Am if it were to surface live, they seem to want to go on forever, if they pushed it further we would be expecting a triple LP in the mail instead of a double.

Underneath You” is a rolling cosmic tide, the instrumentation sloshing us from one idea to the next, never pinned down, never taking shape completely before finding ourselves tossed on the shore into the arms of “Head Collector,” the only song on the album to hit the ice at all. They close the album coddling our burnt nerve endings of a long night rolling on a bit too much, thankful we bought the ticket yet gladly coming to the end of the ride.

The band produced this album themselves, recording it at Studio 666; Engineered by  Zachary James, Kevin Mills, and Josh Menashe; it was mastered by Nick Townsend. If you haven’t gotten my point yet, nothing I could close out a review with is going to sell you. Like, love, or hate ZAM makes no difference to me, probably doesn’t to the band either, meanwhile I’m gonna try to find my lighter and start the thing over again in the proper mindset.

Frankie and the Witch Fingers
Facebook | Instagram | Greenway Records | Bandcamp

Tour Dates:

02.22 – Las Vegas, Nev. @ Beauty Bar
02.23 – Bisbee, Ariz. @ The Quarry
02.24 – El Paso, Texas @ Love Buzz
02.25 – Albuquerque, N.M. @ Sister Bar
02.26 – Denver, Colo. @ Hi-Dive
02.27 – Fort Collins, Colo. @ Surfside 7
03.01 – Sioux Falls, S.D. @ Total Drag Records
03.02 – Milwaukee, Wis. @ Cactus Club *
03.03 – Chicago, Ill. @ The Empty Bottle *
03.04 – Cleveland, Ohio @ Beachland Tavern *
03.06 – Brooklyn, N.Y. @ Knitting Factory *
03.07 – Philadelphia, Pa. @ Kung Fu Necktie *
03.08 – Washington, D.C. @ Pearl St. Live *
03.09 – Atlanta, Ga. @ The EARL *
03.10 – New Orleans, La. @ Gasa Gasa *
03.12-16 – Austin, Texas @ SXSW
03.17 – Dallas, Texas @ Not So Fun Wknd *
03.19 – Phoenix, Ariz. @ Yucca Tap Room *
03.20 – Los Angeles, Calif. @ Teragram Ballroom *
03.21 – San Diego, Calif. @ Casbah *
03.23 – San Francisco, Calif. @ The Independent *
04.24 – Valencia, Spain @ Surforama Festival
04.29 – Paris, France @ Supersonic
04.30 – Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Paradiso
04.31 – Opwijk, Belgium @ Nosta
05.01 – Cologne, Germany @ Sonic Ballroom
05.02 – Berlin, Germany @ Cassiopeia
05.04 – Lyon, France @ Le Farmer
05.05 – Lausanne, Switzerland @ Le Romandie
05.06 – Lugano, Switzerland @ Lido San Domenica
05.07 – Schaffhausen, Switzerland @ Tap Tab
05.08 – Sierre, Switzerland @ PALP Festival (Carnötzet
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