Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fred Frith - Cheap at Half the Price (1983)

When I was down in Austin for South by Southwest a few years back, my friend Lance lost his wallet at End of an Ear records. While he was inquiring about the possible location of his wallet, I struck up a conversation one of the dudes at End of an Ear, and we ended up trading CDs. I gave him a copy of Flaming Tunes, and he gave me a compilation he had made called “demon pop.” The guy was borderline obsessed with Fred Frith and even had a custom made Fred Frith sweater and told me about his band who was inspired by Frith. He just ranted to me about Frith for like 30 minutes about how he was one of the most innovative musicians of the century, and so on. Anyways, the cd the guy gave me had a bunch of Fred Frith stuff from his solo work to Art Bears to Henry Cow and was aptly titled. It was a weird one to say the least.

Aberrant and abstract, Cheap at Half the Price is a cornucopia of pandemonium, a saturnalia of strange sounds, but all within the pop proximity. It’s still very avant-garde, but easily his most accessible record with more traditional song structures than his usual improvisational and noisy oddball stuff. There are some really swell tracks on Cheap at Half the Price, such as “Some Clouds Do,” “Walking Song,” and “Absent Friends” among others. This album is definitely not for everybody, but his dark and exotic approach to avant-pop is interesting and goes nicely if you’re in the right mindstate.

Rating: 7/10


One of the more schizophrenic tracks on the record, from the Fred Frith documentary, Step Across the Border:

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