Ad Frank

Mister Fancypants

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Ad Frank's second solo album is an impressive step forward from his charmingly ramshackle but somewhat inconsistent solo debut. The songs themselves are a more solid set of tunes, with the sort of new wave-influenced melodies and sharp lyrics that made Frank's old band Miles Dethmuffen so entertaining, and the more detailed production suits them well. Frank's unique lyrical voice -- half overeducated smart aleck, half wounded romantic, like early Elvis Costello with a greater capacity for vulnerability -- deserves melodies and arrangements as nuanced as the lyrics they're supporting, and more so than on Ad Frank, he gets them here. From the dryly ironic opener "Last Night Mark Eitzel Saved My Life" onwards, the artist's sharp words are matched with perfectly appropriate arrangements ranging from the synth pop bounce of "The Ticket Was Non-Refundable" to the bittersweet jangle of "Barking Up the Wrong Girl." Two of the songs are instant classics on the order of Miles Dethmuffen's "Mouth of Hell" or the solo debut's "Postpunk at Cambridgeside Mall"; "U-Hauls and Ryders" is a devastating breakup song, finding more honest emotion in the mundane details of a move than most songs can locate in the most soul-baring confessions, and the almost masochistic "The Map to Your Good Graces" closes the album (save for an anti-climatic cover of Paul K and the Weathermen's "Leave Me in Tears") with the sort of sweeping but not melodramatic emotion Mark Eitzel himself specialized in on the early American Music Club albums.

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