The Frogs

Hopscotch Lollipop Sunday Surprise (Scratchie)

As alleged "gay supremacists" who once rattled the cage of underground music with 1989's cult classic It's Only Right and Natural, Dennis and Jimmy Flemion have gone beyond telling the world, "We are homos, hear us roar." Racially Yours found them singing about ethnic tension -- with one brother in blackface, the other in whiteface -- in an attempt to shock members of both polarized tribes. And with a huge, unreleased backlog of "made-up songs" (enough to rival both Ween and New Zealand's Tall Dwarves), this Milwaukee-based twosome inspires curiosity every time it avails itself to the listening public.

The pair's first, full-throttle, studio-recorded album gives plenty of reason to uncork some champagneski in the name of all things perverted. With customarily savage humor, the Froggies pool from their strum-happier sides for a solid collection of pastoral folk rock. They blend muted drums, toy pianos, harps, horns, strings and a raft of acoustic guitars into lush and engaging tapestries. With lyrics elevated above mere crudeness (consult Matador's 1996 release, My Daughter the Broad, for their most raunchy batch), the two have reached a maturation point that now employs orchestral arrangements to soften their honest contempt for everything under the sun.

Because the Frogs let younger brother Jimmy handle vocals this go-round, any stigma they hold as a one-joke band can finally be dissolved for good. Jimmy's voice is terrific. Heartfelt ballads such as "The Longing Goes Away" and "Bad Mommy" shimmer with great beauty; even over-the-top numbers like "Nipple Clamps" somehow manage to locate enormous feeling despite any willful jocularity: It's Ray Davies by way of Bob Crane. "Better than God" offers motivation therapy, while a delightfully egotistic "Enter I" might have you double-taking for Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices. And jeepers! There's even a Bob Dylan cover: "Billy."

As treasured irritants go, the Frogs have earned an indie cred that most bands would kill for. And the brothers Flemion have found a way not only to keep it, but to improve upon it musically.

 
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