Friday, October 17, 2008

Frodus - And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea

Frodus - And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea

Frodus was formed in 1993 and dissembled in 1999, issuing two full-length albums and a number of other releases while together and recording a third just before breaking up. Their exceptional blend of mathy, D.C.-style post-hardcore has earned them praise from, and given inspiration to countless followers. The band reached their pinnacle on what was regrettably their third and last album, the post-humous And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea, experimenting with a number of different esthetics to add to the noisy, jumpy punk (affectionately deemed “spazzcore”) they originated with.

Like nearly all D.C. post-hardcore bands that came about in the 90’s, Frodus takes a number of cues from the godfathers of post-hardcore themselves, Fugazi. Fugazi helped shape the landscape for post-hardcore with their aggressive, discordant sound, as well as their desire to experiment beyond the traditional means and limits set out for them, two things Frodus had going for them as well. An analogy between the two wouldn’t be hard to follow; both D.C. bands, both playing styles of angular, occasionally abrasive post-hardcore, and both considered to be among the best at what they do.

As the 90’s went on, Fugazi became more and more experimental, and while this lead to them gaining a reputation as some of the premier pioneers in underground music, it also involved them losing much of the aggressiveness that made them great in the first place. Whether or not this was positive is irrelevant; the point is this pattern of development was not theirs alone. Near the end of their days, Frodus was going down a similar path, wherein they wanted to experiment with the boundaries of their already developed sound. The result is less chaotic and far more polished than, say, F-Letter, and has a feeling of maturation when compared to their previous releases, not unlike comparing The Argument to 13 Songs.

And this is where the analogy ends. Because unlike Fugazi, Frodus do not seem even the slightest bit tamed on And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea, remaining just as angry and as vigilant against the mainstream culture that spawned them as ever. Sure, there’s the occasional ambient interlude, suggesting that the band just didn’t have anything left after writing this, but don’t let that fool you; cries like “Stupid human scum!” are only the most literal examples on an album full of cynicism and frustration. The aggression is most palpable on tracks like “The Awesome Machine” and “There Will Be No More Scum”, wherein the coarse power of the guitar and the screams of singer Shelby Cinca lend an incredible amount of intensity to the proceedings.

Yet there is a certain wistfulness to a lot of the songs as well; while the lyrics are as angry as ever, managing to be both veiled and direct in their vitriol, they also convey a very defeatist approach toward the topics taken on. For example, in “The Earth Isn’t Humming”, as the minimalism of the bass combines with Shelby’s resigned cries of “another one must fall down”, the listener is greeted with an overwhelming sense of despondence. This feeling of hopelessness engulfs much of the album, whether Frodus is working toward a frenzied, noisily cathartic climax, or constructing a slow, melodic instrumental piece. The contrast between the angrier and more aggressive songs, and that of the more despairing and gloomy songs do a great deal to suggest a level of exhaustion in the band, as if they just couldn’t keep up the same level of defiance anymore. This weariness also finds itself coming into play in the rest of their music too; the angular, mathiness of the band which could have previously been likened to a San Diego-style band like Drive Like Jehu, now sounds more relaxed, almost to the point of post-rock territory.

With their last album, Frodus created the monument for which, for better or for worse, they will be remembered for. And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea is a triumph of subversive, experimental music which manages to combine the sensibilities of math rock with the volatility of hardcore and come away a rousing success. Gloomy and ominous, it takes the bands’ pessimistic, wearied take on the modern world and translates it seamlessly into audio format. There may be more famous bands to come out of D.C. in the past 15 years, but there are few better.

Frodus Conglomerate Intl. thanks you for listening


*#..(brad said...

never been too big of a fan of them, but their drummer, jason, i believe that's his name has some interesting stories i listened to from an interview. he turned down the oppurtunity to play on converge's Jane Doe, and recorded some eastern european churches' hymn "heavy like neurosis".

cretin said...

he has (had) his own blog too:

as well as a side-project featuring kurt ballou that appears to have been scrapped (can't find anything about it anyway).

Thomas said...

Thanks for the post, I really appreciate it. Frodus records are really hard to come by, at least for me.

FCI for life!

cretin said...

I actually have a big chunk of their discography, from Molotov Cocktail Party onward, which I could upload if you're interested.