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The Sweet Songs of Decay

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Album Review

The title of The Sweet Songs of Decay may seem ironic considering Frank Bango spent the last few years battling Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a possibly fatal condition. Luckily, Bango went into remission, so he'll be around to reap the rewards of this winning pop album. This is the fourth collection he's released on his own, another collaboration with lyricist Richy Vesecky full of stark, dark vignettes crammed with images of death, limitation, futile struggles against a brutal world, and, yes, decay. Bango sings with the voice of the young Elvis Costello, slightly nasal and snarky, but he sounds more resigned to the folly of the world than angry at it, although there's plenty of bitter humor in Vesecky's lyrics. The album starts quietly with "You Always Begin by Saying Goodbye," the story of a relationship that's over before it begins; Bango's wistful vocal, acoustic guitar, and the soft crooning background vocals make it a subtle charmer. Bango croons the subtle psychedelic "Worm Was Wood" in his lower register. The lyrics pile up the non sequiturs, leaving each listener to decide what's going on, a kind of pop Rorschach test. "Angela Eagleton" is the portrait of a grammar-school nerd enduring the torments of her classmates. Bango puts plenty of love and compassion into his vocal, a belated love song to a child that he wasn't brave enough to stick up for. "If a Plane Goes Down" likens the larger tragedies of life to the pain of a broken heart. It's a song that could have sounded overwrought, but Bango's hushed vocal makes it work. On the upbeat side, at least musically, you have "Summerdress," an organ-driven rocker that praises the delicate wardrobes of pretty girls on sunny days; "I Saw the Size of the World," a poignant meditation on the joys and sorrows of life from gardens to graveyards; and "What This Place Needs," in which beautiful shimmering guitar textures and wailing background harmonies contrast with a bleak lyric that implicitly looks at the failings of America with a jaundiced eye. Despite the downbeat subject matter, the variety of the arrangements on the album keeps the music from being too distressing. The Sweet Songs of Decay lives up to its name with bright pop tunes and heart-wrenching lyrics that make it a good companion for those early morning hours when the realities of life seem like too much to bear. ~ j. poet, Rovi


Genre: Pop

Years Active: '90s, '00s

New York City-based singer and songwriter Frank Bango's accessible, classic-sounding pop songs sound refreshingly familiar, almost as if they came out of another less frantic and noisy era. All of this is by design, since Bango and his longtime co-writer, Richy Vesecky, have always aimed for a kind of Brill Building approach in their songs. Handling all steps of the process D.I.Y., from writing, producing, and recording to distribution and marketing, Bango has released four albums...
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The Sweet Songs of Decay, Frank Bango
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