Trying to place Frankie and the Witch Fingers in a general musical context isnt easy. They are a four piece of two guitars, bass and drum. The voice of the singer Dylan Sizemore has elements of The Cramps’ Lux Interior. However, their music, though it sounds a bit garage and psychobilly at times, rarely contents itself with the pentatonic threechordery of that genre. His movements onstage remind you of the energy and angularity of Franz Ferdinand, though the music is groovier. In fact at times it seems like funk – indeed the band talking about the song “Realization” said that it was “set to a Sly and The Family Stone kind of pulse”.
There is also the psych-rock influence. As well as the general sound of the band, songs also nod toward psychedelics – and there is even one song called Owsley, named after Stanley Owsley, audio engineer and LSD manufacturer. Their two most recent albums are a big contrast. Brain Telephone released in 2017 contains a lot of really good garage rock, but also a number of super-lush and melodic songs, the extraordinary “Let Love Be Love” being the best example. Zam the most recent album, is much harder, a much reduced musical palette where the concentration is more on rhythm and energy.
I saw them at the Moth Club in Hackney, London. This is an interesting venue. It takes its name from the Memorable Order of Tin Hats – a group of ex-military types who still regularly drink at the venue. And it has a number of military style things on the wall. However, alongside this, the stage has a golden backdrop, and the arched ceiling is covered in spangly glitter. The ceiling is quite low, but this makes for really excellent acoustics.
They started the set with the song “Work” – which is a stonkingly rhythmic performance – with the chorus being “I work for you, you work for me“. The subsequent “Realization“, also from the Zam album followed this up well. Two songs later they placed my favorite song from Zam, the brilliant “Dracula Drug” – which is such an original fusion of sounds an styles, as it moves between the funk of the verse to the punk of the chorus with complete seamlessness.
One particularly important component of their sound is indebted to the manic energy of the drummer Shaunessy Star . By the end of Dracula Drug he was towelling himself down. The bassist (who looks incidentally like the character James Hurley from Twin Peaks) was totally in the pocket too, and the lead guitarist, whose contributions on Dracula Drug give it its power and texture also looked liked they needed to cool off. After this pause, the gig continued at the frenzied momentum that it had started with – however the songs became less memorable.
The set wasn’t the longest in the world. Probably about 50 minutes in total. They sang the song “Brain Telephone” for the encore (which, as far as I can tell, was the only song from that album of the same name in the set).
Ultimately it was extremely enjoyable and danceable, however the lack of some of the more melodic songs of Brain Telephone made the set a little monochromatic. During the cool-off period after “Dracula Drug” , I think I would have preferred them to maybe attempt songs like “Let Love Be Love” which would have made a brilliant contrast with the preceeding intensity.