If Angie Hart sang any more angelically, you would expect her band to include John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, and Jimi Hendrix. Like Sinead O'Connor, the vocalist for Australia's Frente possesses pipes that don't need to scream to be heard. When she sings in her childlike soprano about relationships and broken hearts, a palpable sense of vulnerability and innocence comes through--so much so that the listener wants to reach out, give Hart a big hug, and say, "Hey, don't worry. Everything is going to be OK."
Frente, founded in 1988, and Hart first captivated the attention of the music world four years ago with Labor of Love, a brief EP (seven songs in less than 15 minutes) full of thoughtful, catchy acoustic-based pop. Two years later, Labor of Love was followed by the release of Marvin: The Album, which reprised Labor's cover of New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle." Frente's version of the song is a straight-ahead ballad featuring only Hart's ethereal voice and an acoustic guitar--the exact opposite of New Order's man-meets-machine original. It garnered heavy MTV and radio play and became an international smash--and led to a unique problem: Anytime a band achieves that kind of popularity with a debut album, there is intense pressure on the follow-up; Frente was in the even more difficult position of following up on the success of a cover song.
Shape, released earlier this year, avoids the sophomore slump. The band dropped the annoying exclamation point at the end of its name (are you guys in Therapy? paying attention?), and with the album not only picks up where it left off with Marvin, but races on full-steam ahead. Frente has beefed up and diversified its attack, adding trip-hop grooves ("Sit On My Hands") and power pop ("What's Come Over Me) to its usual spare acoustic arrangements ("Goodbye Goodguy").
Still, Frente's major drawing card is Hart's guileless voice--big enough to play anywhere, innocent enough to make any setting intimate. Come early, but please refrain from yelling "Bizarre Love Triangle!" between every song.
Frente opens for Barenaked Ladies Friday, August 30, at Deep Ellum Live.