One Track Mind: Roddy Frame, “Postcard” from Seven Dials (2014)

There are some sounds that hold transportive qualities. Unheard for long enough, they will envelop you again like a gust of reminescence and reunion. All of a sudden, you are right back where you were. And everything is the same — the friends, the faces, the places. And this voice, this voice was there too: Roddy Frame.

Then, he was fronting the Mark Knopfler-produced Aztec Camera release Knife, and offering the kind of offhanded wisdom that shook teen sensibilities to their very girders: “The strongest words,” Frame memorably sang, “have all been used.” But then, as that opening cut continued, also that “the new ones sound confused.”

Yes. Exactly. But Roddy Frame kept searching for them, and I searched with him. Later, he talked of a desperate “yearning for more, only for more.” These were days when you felt unmoored, lost either in love or in wonder or in some libation, with the world spinning all around at a dizzying speed. We were impossibly young, and just as impossibly confused, and just as impossibly romantic. All of that was in Frame’s voice, too. “There’s a sense we didn’t have,” he commiserates, before sadly adding “and I feel it in the other five.”

Then, though, he was gone. Or, I was. After releasing two quick head-turning albums in 1983-84, High Land, Hard Rain and then Knife, Aztec Camera took three long years (at the time, anyway) to produce Love and then another three for Stray. At that point, the spell was broken. There were jobs to go to, cars to pay for, 401Ks to consider. The world had dilated into something far more managable, something far more mundane, something outside of those shimmering daydreams of youth.

And so, Roddy Frame has a new album coming out, his first solo project in eight years — and, I’ll have to admit, the first I’ve heard of him since the Reagan administration. He’s advancing Seven Dials, due August 19, 2014 via AED Records, with the perfectly titled “Postcard.” There is one other throwback element in Mark Edwards, a mid-1990s-era member of Aztec Camera who plays keys. But with the exception of drummer Adrian Meehan, Frame co-produces and handles the rest of the instrumentation himself — and his lilting way with a pop hook remains, his way with words, his plucky riffs.

Funny, though: After that first shock of recognition, and a moment spent in memory, “Postcard” doesn’t feel nostalgic to me anymore. Time has a way of doubling back. Two decades after life seemed to devolve into a post-college grind, a growing family surrounds you with magic all over again. First bike rides, summer camps and teeth under pillows are experienced as if brand new. You’re right there with them, feeling things, seeing their raw thrumming beauty, in a way you hadn’t since … well, since you last heard this voice.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso