At the conclusion of their decade-long record deal with Setanta, The Frank and Walters found themselves at a crossroads. Songwriters Paul Linehan (vocals, bass) and Ash Keating (drums) lost original guitarist and Paul’s brother Niall Linehan, who decided to venture into the restaurant trade.
For a band once supported live by Suede and Radiohead and whose roadie was one Noel Gallagher, it looked to be all over. Paul started making furniture and Ash got an office job, supplemented by occasional DJ slots on radio. But then Setanta indicated its wish to sell its back catalogue. Former labelmate Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy bought his work back and, with a little help from their friends, The Franks followed suit.
Suddenly the band had more than a decade’s worth of material to wade through, among it live gig recordings, Peel sessions, covers and remixes. Now that the band owned the rights to their own music for the first time, it was a no-brainer to release a rarities album. This would eventually become the collection that is Souvenirs.
As with most sprawling, completist albums of this nature, Souvenirs is a mixed-up bag of tricks and treads a path between the band’s many familiar tunes and their more experimental side, evidenced on last studio album Glass.
Fans will be pleased with live favourite Michael’s inclusion, while a range of funky covers remind of The Franks’ little-mentioned musical abilities. Best of these are Tone Loc‘s Funky Cold Medina, Julian Cope‘s Elegant Chaos, The Magnetic Fields‘ Falling Out Of Love and the Neil Diamond-penned Monkees hit I’m A Believer.
Of the original stuff, what sounds like a live version of Fast Anthony is another uplifting moment, but there are plenty of less obvious gems to be unearthed too. Amongst these are My Bloody Valentine‘s Kevin Shields mixing up Take Me Through This Life and Fame Academy‘s Marlena Buck providing vocals on alternate versions of Paradise and low-key opener New York.
As a whole, Souvenirs is not for anyone new to The Franks, whose appreciation of the band would do well to start with one of the finished studio albums, but fans will be delighted with the two-disc album and free to download third section. Souvenirs at least fills some of the gap left by Cork’s best loved exports as the new material – scheduled for release in 2006 – is awaited, and it gives notice that The Frank and Walters, through thick and thin, are still in our lives. Long may that be the case.