Thursday, February 16, 2006

An old picture with a new Frame

"The sensitive young man with the fringed jacket." That's how East Kilbride's Roddy Frame once described himself.

And on a track like "The Boy Wonders," the second on High Land, Hard Rain, the debut album from Frame's songwriting vehicle, Aztec Camera, that sensitivity -- that innocence, that vulnerability -- is clearly evident.

The song opens with the drunken revelry of the Scottish New Year: "So come Hogmanay when love comes in slurs/Resolutions I'll make and you can label them 'Hers.'" According to Hogmanay tradition, a new year will be a prosperous one if, at the stroke of midnight, a "tall, dark stranger" appears at the door with a lump of coal for the fire. In "The Boy Wonders," Frame is that "tall, dark stranger," only he's toting fuel for fires of a different variety.

His affections are strong, but those ancient insecurities are too; doubt is already creeping into our smitten hero: "Now this boy wonders/Why the words were never worth the wait." Then, and not surprisingly, our seemingly autobiographical tale of young love (Frame was just 18 at the time of this album's release) plays its coda -- over before it even really began. "And my traveling chest will be open to you," Frame sings. "And boy will you learn that you haven't a clue."

What makes this woebegone jaunt so easy to stomach is the sweet, jangling guitars. It's hard to get teary for Frame when he's strumming away so joyfully. Balancing aching lyrics and a honeyed sound . . . well, that's part of what makes Frame so damn terrific.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "The Boy Wonders" by Aztec Camera.