(12-05-1988) The Newsletter Volume 2, Issue 2
THE FROGS<br&> THE FROGS<br&> <br&> "She came from Earth/but I came from the Gods," begins a song on the new Frogs LP, and that sums up as well as anything the winningly weird perspective of what must be one of the strangest acts this state, if not the world, has ever known.
I first became a Frogs fan on the strengths of their old live shows. At any of those shows, you would see three guys on stage: a tall singer/guitarist dressed in a gold lame suit with giant batwings, a drummer, and a bassist in black leather with black wigs and black sunglasses.
This rather foreboding threesome (at that time including Jay Tiller on bass) would proceed to intimidate their audience into total submission/hysteria with songs about Satan, sex, death, God, Prince, etc.. Sex and superstition seemed to dominate the lyrics, which tended to be so unsettingly absurdist that you were never quite sure how to take them.
For example: "The rapist/was practicing on my ma/and he was trying on her bra for size..." Out of context, those lyrics seem horrible; yet The Frogs made people laugh with that song, which before it finished had the rapist practicing on their pa as well. It was all a farce of course; how can you take someone wearing giant batwings and singing about "Hades High School" seriously?
Their horror-movie schtick was so outrageous that you had to laugh, but deep down I was always relieved my parents weren't there to hear it. And then I started noticing that The Frogs' (the drummer and guitarist are brothers) parents were there, at almost every show. And I started thinking, "these guys are seriously strange."
"On the Eigth Day, God created-the businessman!" sing/guitarist Jim would snarl, breaking into the larynx-shattering scream that became his trademark. Dry ice smoke swirled around him, midway through a song he would set off flash pots that more often and not exploded right in his face. How he avoided being blinded is anyone's guess. Brother-drummer Dennis would abruptly stop songs to fiddle with their chronically defective equipment or fix Jim's wings, all the while muttering profanities at everything in sight, including the audience.
"Whether You Like It Or Not, We Love You," said their (perhaps) best song, and for a while it looked like The Frogs really would go on putting on weird, funny, unpredictable, highly enjoyable shows forever. It just seemed (to me) a matter of time before the world starting loving The Frogs right back.
But then they disappeared, and as more and more time went by, I began to think that perhaps they'd given up the ghost (to use an appropriate term).
Finally, their first album appeared. Unlike their live shows, which were musically sparse, on vinyl The Frogs lay on new layers; strings, keyboards, percussion--whether it's live or sampled i can't tell, but the result is a twisted pop tour de force.
Even with all the production, The Frogs are never heavy or overdone. Like Marc Bolan, who seems to be their most obvious influence, they are masters at short pop masterpieces, little nuggets of baroque rock that just happens to be about sex, death, the supernatural, etc.
The album is also more mellow than their old live shows. But the production is just so damn catchy that it doesn't matter. What they lose in intensity they more than make up for with musical flourishes that hook in and don't let go. And when they need to, as with the classic "F'd Over Jesus," (who else could come up with such a song-at least they abbreviated!) they can still kick it in.
Or they did on the album. The story has taken a sad turn-The Frogs have returned to live performing, much to the dismay of old Frogs' fans. The new sets feature few or none of the songs from the album and Dennis now seems to dominate, though he's much more limited both vocally and as a front man. And the new songs? Well,...they seem to suck.
The new songs are not nearly as interesting melodically, and the lyrics have gone from being funny to being ridiculous. A lot of songs about how much better it is to be gay than straight. That's right, straight-bashing! Surely a first for pop songwriting. But pretty one-dimensional and pointless to my ears. I mean, bashing is bashing, it gets old. And the performances themselves are lackluster. It's as though they're just going through the motions.
"You're not having fun/and maybe this is my point." Maybe the ever-ambigious Frogs are are still just toying with us old fans. Maybe not. At least we have this vinyl testament to a one-of-a-kind pop funhouse.
This record sounds like a classic to me, though I suspect it requires a high tolerance for the bizarre and a love of dark humour. Whether I like it or not I love it.
-By Scott Wooldridge