This was the album I most eagerly anticipated of 2018 without even realizing it. That's because I didn't know frog was back in the studio; but every time I listened to their 2015 masterpiece Kind of Blah I wondered what they were up to. Not like I had to dig too deep -- by a strange coincidence it turned out they work at the same tech company as one of my good friends. I'm happy to say that Whatever is more of the same: sweeping songs with lyrics that feel off-the-cuff and otherworldy -- but with just enough detail to keep you grounded to the bleak concrete of New York City and its sterile suburban environs.
Take, for example, "God Once Loved a Woman," -- a killer phrase in and of itself.
God once loved a woman
Her features soft and German
And one day after sermon
God followed her home across the George Washington
Where her blouse caught the sun and her eyes lit up like she recognized someone
Her son ran past the window
He reached through the thin smoke and touched the yellow glass
So when it started snowing
God spoke to her from
The Path train platform
The ground it shook rats ran in swarms
And scratched and clawed and through the fog there rose a form
He said you are the most beautiful thing that I made
And he watched her face twist and melt towards the shade
Now all the boneyards tremble with her name
Something’s there you don’t care its unfair it’s a drain still clogged up with her hair
It was hard not to just put the full lyrics in there -- but I felt it was important to see the way frog plays with huge ideas before hyperfixating on the most minute details of life. It's that sense of an omniscient, restless narrator that makes this band more than an extremely anti-social version of Weezer (though those influences are quite clear.)
Nostalgia is an important theme in frog's work. In "Bones," I begin to understand the seeds of that yearning:
Bones, we watched bones through the laundromat’s fumes in the cold
There’s a VA hospital that you and I’d walk by on our way to diners and
Beggars in Popeye’s and now
Did you know that you are the guardian of a
part of my life that I had forgotten?
It isn't so much the good old days as anticipating when even the worst sludge of daily life today becomes precious. It takes a little digging, but that seems to be the biggest lesson from frog's seemingly blase attitude -- one that's belied by their careful attention to detail in their lyrics and in the way they move through the world.
frog -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp
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