Frenzy

Frenzy – Hall of Mirrors

Nervous NER016 [1985]
One last chance – Schitzophrenic emotions – Choice – Hall of mirrors(1) – Frenzy – Asylum moves – Skeleton rock – Sweet money – Ghost train – Long gone – Surfin’ bird – Was it me? – Wound up – Frustration – Hall of mirrors(2) – Robot riot – Cry or die – All alone – Torment

Frenzy – Hall of mirrors

If a label “classic psychobilly album” would exist, Hall Of Mirror would be among the first to deserve it.
In 1983, the split of the Sharks allowed Steve Whitehouse to fully concentrate on his new project: Frenzy. By many aspects Frenzy were more adventurous than the Sharks. It marked a new step for the psychobilly scene that was in full bloom and the band went into musical territories rarely explored by slap bass led combos. The recording of Hall Of Mirrors, produced by Paul “Doc” Stewart, began with Simon Brand on guitar and Merv Pepler on drums, this trio having already released one ep for a Dutch label (included on the cd reissues of this album). But Brand quickly left the band (he later formed Torment) with only three songs ready for the forthcoming album (Frustration, Frenzy, Sweet Money).
Whitehouse eventually hired Kev Saunders to complete the album. Both Saunders and Pepler came from different musical horizons and combined with the double bassist’s rockabilly background the result was an unusual, unique and explosive combination.

Frenzy
Frenzy

Musically speaking, Whitehouse fast slapping and technique proved to be a lasting influence for the many psychobilly bassmen that followed.
Hall Of Mirrors offered originals (including a reworking of the Sharks’ Skeleton Rock) and one cover (Surfin’ Bird) probably the only weak track of the album (but who could come after the Trashmen and the Cramps?).
The lyrics also set up new standard. I addition to the usual crew of ghosts, skeleton etc. you can also find songs about madness, frustration and teenage angst.
Brilliant!


Frenzy – Clockwork Toy

I.D. Records ‎– NOSE 8 [1986]
Clockwork Toy – I See Red – Misdemeanour – Nightmares – Love Is the Drug – Mexican Radio – Howard Hughes – In My Prison – Aftermath – Nobody’s Business

Frenzy - Clockwork Toy
Frenzy – Clockwork Toy

With Clockwork Toy, Frenzy confirmed their status of “Psychobilly band with more than two ideas in their songs”. The accent is put on arrangements and variations, giving more elaborated melodies (and sometimes more pop sounding) than your usual fast paced rockabilly (Misdemeanour, Clockwork Toy, Howard Hughes…). And if Whithehouse’s heavy slap bass links the whole thing to the rockabilly idiom (listen to “I See Red” – which spent some decent time in the indie charts – or “Nightmares“), the sound of the guitar doesnt owe anything to the genre. There’s a lot of production work. A powerfull live band, they also want to prove they can deliver a “real” album and not only a hastily live in the studio recording of stage favorites. These’ll remain a constant (with varied degrees of success) in Frenzy’s carreer. Retrospectivly, it sometimes turns to the disadvantage of the band and this will to explore technology shows its limits. The synthetizer’s sound on “Love Is A Drug” (yes Roxy Music’s one) or the drums on “Howard Hughes” sound terribly dated now, and let’s say it, very cheap.
But this minor flaws left aside, Clockwork Toys is as important, for different reasons, as their debut album and still stands today as a classic of the genre.
It’s later been reissued on cd with two b-sides from the same period and 3 songs from Sally’s Pink Bedroom

Frenzy

Frenzy – Sally’s Pink Bedroom

I.D. Records – NOSE 19 [1987]
The Red Book – Sign Of The Times – The Hunt – Game Of Love – Satisfaction – House On Fire – Like Father, Like Son – Man At The Top – Blue Eyes – Jumped The Gun – Run To You – Gotta Go!

Recorded in October 1987 and released the following month, Sally’s Pink Bedroom is Frenzy’s unloved album. On its release, it was shunned by a large part of the fans who criticized it for its polished sound, its arrangements, its covers of artists such as Tubeway Army, Katrina & the Waves or Bryan Adams and, oh sacrilege, its artwork on which Steve Whitehouse proudly poses with an electric bass.
Especially Psychobilly lovers did not find the group’s identity in this album, which had stormed the scene with two almost-perfect albums. In the end, Sally’s Pink Bedroom suffered a fate similar to Restless’s After Midnight.
But if we look more closely, this evolution was in germ from Clockwork Toy (after all, there is already a cover of Roxy Music’s Love Is A Drug). In addition, Whitehouse is a musician who has never hidden his interest in groups that go beyond the simple framework of music rooted in Rockabilly. Besides, was it not to escape a rockabilly scene that was too narrow-minded that he threw himself into the nascent Psychobilly, first with the Sharks, then Frenzy? The same goes for Kev Saunders and Merv Peppler.
But what about this album? Is it as catastrophic as the reputation that precedes it wants to say? Well no! I’m not saying this is the album I would use to introduce someone to Frenzy (do not exaggerate), but if you approach it with an open and curious mind, you’ll find more than enough to please you.
First, let’s get rid of the big crash, the industrial incident: their version of Satisfaction. Forget it! Once this done, we can seriously approach the rest of the album. This consists of two parts. One includes House On Fire, Man At The Top, The Hunt, Jumped The Gun (all written by the band), and Gotta Go, the G-Men (ex-Blue Cats) cover. These five songs are an extension of Clockwork Toy. House On Fire is quite simply one of the best songs ever recorded by Frenzy. Likewise, Man At The Top and Jumped the Gun demonstrate the band’s talent for composing songs with more than two melodic ideas, a skill many bands must envy. And what about the take on Gotta Go? Do you know many covers superior to the original version? Did Whitehouse suspect while recording this song that he would join the Blue Cats many years later?
The second group, composed of the remaining songs, shows a group experimenting and having fun. These songs are different from what you usually find on a Psychobilly record (but after all, it doesn’t say anywhere that it’s a Psychobilly record). Above all, these are good songs, no matter what label you put on them. Game Of Love (Katrina and the Waves) is a skilful cross between a sixties song and a Billy Idol track, while Run To You (Bryan Adams) has a little Soul side revisited by the 80s, finally quite close to what the Rockats did with One More Heartache.
Admittedly, Pat Collier’s production spoils a bit and seems quite dated today, especially on Sign Of The Time and Red Book, but the melodies and rhythms remain unstoppable.
If you own this album, do not hesitate to take it out of the limbo in which you left it 35 years ago. If you don’t have it, take off your blinders and enjoy the music (not the awful cover art.)


Frenzy – Live at the 100 Club

Nervous Records NER 033 – Raucous Records [1988]
I see red – Misdemeanour – Love is the drug 4.House on fire – Howard Hughes – The hunt – Clockwork toy – Migraine – Gotta go! – It’s All Over Now – Robot riot

Frenzy - Live at the 100 Club
Frenzy – Live at the 100 Club

In the quantity of live albums released by psychobilly bands, many were disappointing, whether they were poorly recorded (remember the Live & Loud serie on Link) or the band wasn’t able to recreate the studio recordings on stage. Among the best you find The Long Tall texansFive Beans In The Wheel, The SharksLive In Japan, a couple of Meteors and… Frenzy’s Live At The 100 Club. Recorded in 1986, it’s a magic combination of a perfect recording and a tight band of true professionnals, playing at that time 150 dates per year. The set draws heavily into Clockwork Toy recorded that same year.They kick off with a roaring version of their indie charts hit I See Red. Misdemeanor quickly follows, featuring a pumping slap bass, showing how good Steve Whitehouse is.Roxy Music’s Love Is A Drug is far better than the album version. The keyboards parts being replaced by a guest saxophonist giving a bit of a ska touch. They alternate “straight in your face” wild numbers (House On Fire) with their more complex and melodic songs (Clockwork Toy, Howard Hughes) with equal degrees of success. Next are a couple of covers, The Ricochets’Migraine, The G-Men’s Gotta Go and a epic 8 minute It’s All Over Now a song previously performed by Withehouse in The Sharks’ set. This perfect disc ends with a 100 mp/h rendition of their “early” classic Robot Riot that almost manages to make you forget the studio version. Issued on vinyl by Nervous in 1988, it’s been reissued by Raucous in 2001.


Frenzy – The Very Best-Of

Rage CD 107 [1990]

Frenzy - best-of
Frenzy – best-of

A very good overview of the band’s seven first years including songs from Hall Of Mirrors, Clockwork Toy and This Is the Fire as well as unreleased stuff like Long Gone recorded live at Hemsby and some b-sides too.


Frenzy – Live in Japan

Raucous Records RAUCD046
Nervous Breakdown- Clockwork Toy – Misdemeanour – Hall of Mirrors – I See Red – This is the Fire – CC Rider – Love is a Drug – Mad Mad World – Brand New Gun – Long Gone – Tush – Robot Riot – It’s All Over Now – Cry or Die

Frenzy Live in Japan

Another very good live album recorded in Japan (see Restless and the Sharks for others great live albums recorded in jpan with Steve Whitehouse) in 1993.

It’s a very powerful set with all the classics and a couple of covers like Brand New Gun (Tall Boys), Tush (ZZ Top), Nervous Breakdown (Cochran), CC Rider (Elvis) and Royx Music’s Love is a Drug.

It’s very different – and yet very complementary – to Live at the 100 Clubsince Carl Parry has a very Metal sound compared to Kev Saunders who was more ‘new wave meets rockabilly’. It sometimes a bit too much, but more often than not it works very well, even with the songs from Hall of Mirror and Clockwork Toy.

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