Uncle Frank – Fountains
The Europeans have always had a take on electronic dance pop that their American brethren rarely share. Frank Benbini and his band aren’t just as assemblage of musicians and electronics mavens looking to make people dance and cash checks but come off, instead, as well-rounded songwriters and performers intent on providing audiences with a good time and connecting with them emotionally. The first single from their forthcoming second album Love Lion entitled “Fountains” is a reminder of many things, but two are most prominent. The first that this is an art form capable of saying much more to its target audience than just forget about your cares and dance and the second is that, in general, this music doesn’t have to be made be machines alone and, instead, it is better served being performed by flesh and blood musicians working at or near the top of their form.
There’s certainly no question, even hearing “Fountains” for the first time, that Frank and his accompanying musicians are playing at their peak of their respective powers. Benbini immediately takes charge with all the nuance and style that he can bring to bear as singer. His technique is to tie his voice tightly to the movement of the song and he does that to superb effect here. His phrasing has a way of weaving around the warm bass thump courtesy of bassist Luke Bryan and Junior Benbini’s rock solid and grooved out drumming that makes this band, this performance, a practically impossible combination to beat. The song kicks off by hitting the chorus first and, while it isn’t an unheard of move, it’s relatively audacious enough to deserve particular note. By doing this, Benbini and his band brings listeners directly into the experience of the song.
The experience is much more upbeat than the lyrics might sound on first hearing. They express a desire for escape to someplace better, an escape from loneliness, and uses perfect language to convey that sentiment. It’s a blend of the specific and general – we never really know what exactly the fountains are Uncle Frank is referring to in the title or why dreaming of such deliverance constitutes shooting off his mouth, but there’s little doubt that the vast majority of listeners will draw their own conclusions and profoundly relate. There’s equally little doubt that the longing in his voice is inextricably connected to the song’s experience and, together, they conjure a spell for listeners that gives this song a lot of impact.
Based on this single alone, Love Lion is set to be one of 2017’s most meaningful releases in the genre. Few bands, collectives, or solo artists can boast the same skill set that is on display here. Instead, Uncle Frank and his band of talented players reach deep for the heart of the audience and capture it, but they never forget to get them moving as well.