Ever heard of Irish band The Frames? I got into ‘em (fractionally) when I bought their 1993 ‘Picture of You’ 12” single out of a bargain bin. The flipside track ‘Downhill from Here’ hinted at the subtle sentiment driven sounds that their lead singer Glen Hansard (musician/ songwriter/ novice actor) utilises here.
Almost 15 years later, the sound is deeper, enriched with strings and other luscious, impacting instrumentation. Together with Marketa Irglova (musician/ songwriter/novice actress), his newly found Czech collaborator, co-star and companion, the rewarding chemistry is (to quote Steve Martin’s ‘Roxanne’) as plain as the nose on your face!
Bearing in mind that Once is a 2007 Sundance Festival award winning film about a pair of struggling musicians, one a Dublin based busker and the other an immigrant seller of flowers, the fact that this LP is filled with polished sounds (bar early Beck echoing #3) comes as something of a surprise. But it’s a gratifying surprise that lifts the spirit and the quality of this album, when put in contrast to what it could’ve been, a substandard set of half assed howling and amateur musicianship.
Music throughout this soundtrack constantly shifts from gentle and helpless to emotive and powerful, certainly worthy and reminiscent of anything that the sorely missed Reindeer Section might’ve produced. Piano and cello provide the backbone whilst more familiar instruments (guitar etc) get on with providing the accessible body. Quirkiness comes with the Casio keyboard and Frames given backing vocals that feature here and there, as do some of their re-worked songs.
I’ve not seen the highly acclaimed Once, which Steven Spielberg himself can be quoted as saying “A little movie called Once gave me enough inspiration to last the rest of the year”, but if its as charming, inspirational and generally life affirming as the soundtrack, its surely nothing short of brilliant.