A new album from Frog is always something to celebrate, but this latest effort sees the band in a time of flux. The flux being the loss of a member. And when your band only has two members to begin with that's a pretty big deal. So whilst Tom White departed the combo and moved to the UK, Danny Bateman was left in the US without a drummer or a job. A 1979 MX5050 tape machine seemed to be the answer to this predicament, which Bateman used to piece together this "solo" record (but one which is still under the Frog banner).
So whilst this new album may have lost some of the dynamic and raw clatter of their previous releases Bateman has instead gone down a mellower, west coast route. "RIP to the Empire State Flea Market" with it's harmonica and cool rhythm section is reminiscent of vintage Neil Young and "You Know I'm Down" is not a million miles away from The Beach Boys at their late 60s post Pet Sounds peak (and I do not say that lightly).
Then there are tracks like "Black Friday" which are different, but for different reasons. This one takes Frog into new areas of pop with its playful piano chords which almost sound like an acid house hook, whilst keeping some of that classic Frog vibe: spine tingling, beautiful structures, evocative storytelling etc.
And speaking of fine storytelling, "Borned King" has moments of Bill Callahan's majesty, and not just in the way he spins a yarn , but also the moments of deep baritone from the usually much higher ranging Bateman.
"Miracle" is probably the closest this record gets to the Frog of old, semi-anthemic but with dark undertones and, in this case, a premature open ended climax.
In a recent interview with Little Dose of Indie (link) Bateman hinted that a reunion with his erstwhile drummer Tom may be on the cards in the future, albeit via modern communication methods (presumably keeping the analogue recording techniques that bring this record to life). That would be undeniably lovely, but whatever guise the future of Frog takes, it's just nice to know that there is a Frog, whether that's alone in America, or pen pals across the pond. Long live Frog.