Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Driving Rock: The Frontier

(Disclaimer we aren't promoting “driving rock” as a genre or even an acceptable term).

In a recent article Niall was quite critical of so called Driving Rock. Is this phenomena total commercial nonsense? Or something more? In particular, does sitting behind the wheel of a car actually add to the listening experience? Absurd, surely.

Lets be honest, it probably is absurd. Though music can certainly add to the driving experience. In the same way it can soundtrack the stacking of shelves, dark city streets (I'm thinking Ulver's Perdition City) or the ritual sacrifice of small animals.

It seems only fair however to offer a contrary view. And what better way to do that by discussing an album which tore onto the scene as potentially the best driving album of all time (recommendations welcome).

Because whilst we may be sitting in traffic. We may be shouting at the prick who doesn't know how to use their indicators at the roundabout. Or maybe it’s just raining. Falcon (ex-Circle)’s Frontier is there to give us the belief that we've got the wind in our hair, free as a bird. We are on the adventure of our lives, the open road. Destination 60mph!

Without getting too caught up in the identity of Falcon (ex-Circle) it is certainly worth devoting a few lines to provide an overview, or to the uninitiated an introduction. The part in brackets is a bit of a give away, though not completely helpful. Finland’s Circle, prolific and ever changing and morphing in their style and identity are the culprits behind this release, swapping their name temporarily to Falcon (ex-Circle). The following output from the group was Circle (ex-Falcon). But you feel any confusion you’ll be happy to know they are back to plain Circle. This year’s gem was Pharaoh Overlord, which conveniently shared a release date with their alter-ego band Pharaoh Overlords’ Circle.

Anyhow, 2013s Frontier, is basically an anthemic classic rock album, but for the modern age. It has glam and cheese, but it feels tongue in cheek and is incredible catchy. The fast paced record is a love story. The love of a woman, the open road, and of course Beer and Ribs.

Frontier opens the album and sets the scene. Some seriously retro, but not dated keyboards complement a classic guitar led sound. “Ranger of the frontier, counting down his days”. The lyrics often conjure a quite visual narrative and need to be commended for such. Similarly, the use of synthesizers in a modern way often feels key to setting this album aside to anything comparable. We begin in the wilderness but where we are heading is anyone’s guess.



Beer and Ribs focus on drinking and eating and general frivolity bring us back to more immediate and pressing concerns. The synth here just teases. It feels like they have struck gold. Thematically this track sets up the album in a tradition of simple rock songs, which essentially avoid nuance and drive solely towards “booze, rock and girls”. Fortunately, Circle’s classic motorik rhythm progresses the track, and it’s this groove which hurtles you forward whilst the almost comically overt lyrical topic assures us we haven’t stepped back into the 70s.

The central block of tracks offer feel good, heated escapades of driving, fleeting passion and adventure. Partners in Crime, the reckless abandon. Ace of Hearts, a relationship burning fast and bright. And Bringers of the Dawn, perhaps a moment of much needed reflection.


Leather Seat is perhaps the new driving anthem and key really to my bold proclamation that this is the best driving album of all time. So, instead of offering any sort of review, I’ll offer the lyrics as they provide much more much greater synopsis than I could.

[…]
My mother she used to warn me
Someday you will fall asleep
At the wheel and die
That ain’t no lie.

Ride on
This long road is my kingdom
Ride on
My throne is the leather seat
I know
These freeways like my blue veins
I know
The engine gives the key
To my dreams
And that’s the only place where I sit still.
[..]

Miami Tits and Seasoned Girl (I’ll Go Crazy) close the album and end our love story. Until the car CD player starts it right back at the beginning and you realise you've moved 5 miles in the past 43 minutes.

Basically if you’re driving and you can’t quite handle the intensity of Sunrise or any other of Circle’s motorik obscenities at 6am, this album is for you. If you are a classic rock fan and you need a fix, this album is for you. If you’re behind the wheel, here is some sustenance.

And at a time when we seem to be driving for longer to get to our jobs which pay less and less and seem more and more pointless, Falcon (ex-Circle) will be there for us.

JT