It must be hard to record a “highly anticipated” record. Frankie Rose has already established herself with Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls. Both bands remind listeners that girls can make smart rock music that not only dialogues with the art world (Vivian Girls were named after the magnum opus of outsider artist Henry Darger), but also ascribes to the punk ethos play it again and play it loud. She followed up those collaborations with a kick-ass solo record that covered an Arthur Russell tune. Understandably, the hype for Frankie Rose’s Interstellar was all over the Internet before the record was released in February.
This Frankie Rose record is different from Rose’s first solo album, recorded under the name Frankie Rose and the Outs. The sound on Interstellar is saturated in synth-pop, done in both dance-y and melodic varieties. The stand-out dance single is “Know Me.” Picture a 21st century Molly Ringwald, strong-willed and naïve, dancing alone in her collage-covered bedroom, surrounded by pictures of Jay Reatard and Sonic Youth. While there are some notable guitar riffs and bass lines on songs like “Had We Had It” and “Moon in My Mind,” the record features a lot of Rose’s oh, oh, oh-ing—essentially not a lot of substance. “Pair of Wings,” an adaptation of “Wings to Fly” by Wu Li Leung, repeats, over a simple, radiating, ambient backdrop, “All that I want is a pair of wings to fly / Into the blue of the wide open sky / Show me your scars / I‘ll show you mine / Perched out of the city / On a pair of power lines.” It would be difficult to make a familiar “pair of wings” image original or meaningful, but it doesn’t sound like Rose is self-conscious about this.
Interstellar feels like a reprieve. The tonal qualities and ambience of the synthesizers recur throughout the record. The opening track invites listeners to embark on an “interstellar highway,” to travel along a crafted and contrived cosmic conveyor belt, and boasts how cool the ride is going to be. Like Disneyworld’s Space Mountain, where the lights and soundtrack compliment the riders’ physical experience on the roller coaster, the trip has been planned for maximum entertainment. The riders only experience the illusion of surprise or suspense—no sooner does the ride begin than it ends. Interstellar is a 10-song LP that clocks in at just over 30 minutes—before you know it, the record is over, the ride is done. And while the thrill of chasing the ephemeral can be appealing, after a while even the most ardent thrill seeker will move on to the next big thing. On Interstellar, Rose moves to center stage, rearranging the traditional band dynamics that were at the forefront of the other groups in which she’s played. It would be wrong to say the record suffers because of it—Interstellar simply lacks the external dialogues for which her music has become known.