I first heard Frente! when they played a live session on Mark Radcliffe's late night Radio 1 show in about 1994. "Blimey, these are a bit good!" I thought to myself, not unreasonably. In fact, I was so impressed with this antipodean combo that I went on to collect pretty much everything they ever released, obscure self-funded early Australian EPs and all. (Most unusual for me - I'm usually pretty slack when it comes to the whole 'completist' thing.)
Frente! had been formed in 1991 by Angie Hart (vocals) and Simon Austin (guitar and occasional co-vocals), after the pair met in a bar in Melbourne where Simon was working. They were to remain the two core members throughout the band's lifespan, which would be most of the nineties (although they did reform briefly to release the Try To Think Less EP in 2005).
Despite releasing numerous EPs and singles, Frente! only ever got round to recording two actual long players: 1992's Marvin The Album and '96's Shape. Marvin is the more instantly accessible of the two, and contained the big hit singles (Accidently Kelly Street, Ordinary Angels and - on the international release at least - their cover of New Order's Bizarre Love Triangle), but over the years I've found Shape to be the more durable of the two. Like an overzealous blood donor, it just keeps on giving. (Marvin still packs a fair old punch too though, in fairness.)
It seems the band had become a bit ashamed of their pop past by the time they were about to record Shape - so much so that the exclamation mark at the end of their name suddenly disappeared - and had settled upon a more mature sound. Now, many's the time a once-great pop band have lost the plot when attempting such a change of direction but in Frente's case I think it actually made them even better. This is a bit of a vexed question amongst fans of the band, though, and there's a pretty even split among people as to which Frente album is actually the best. To be fair, Shape didn't sell nearly as well as Marvin had, and its disappointing sales pretty much sounded the death knell for the band (apart from that later mini-revival). Still, though, I like it a lot!
Here are three songs from different stages of the band's evolution. I'll leave you to work out for yourselves which came when.
Frente! - Testimony mp3
Frente - The Destroyer (Acousdelic version) mp3
Frente! - Face Like A Spider mp3
(mp3s available for 7 of your earth days)
Frente CDs are currently going for a song at eBay
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