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Rolling Stone reviews Jack Frost Print E-mail
Friday, 01 February 1991
Rolling Stone Feb 1st 1991
By John Watson

Jack Frost scored three stars in this review

The ninth track on "Jack Frost" is titled "Number Eleven" and that seems a
fitting way to begin discussing an album which breaks all the rules.  Given
the backgrounds of Jack Frost's creators - Steve Kilbey of the Church and
Grant McLennan, previously of the Go-Betweens - their trenchant individualism
should come as no surprise, but this album's appeal transcends bloodlines.  It
is a collection of fractured and fascinating vignettes.

The collaboration spreads itself across a broad musical territory.  On tunes
like "Every Hour God Sends" they dabble in high-tech metallic funk, while
"Geneva 4am" sounds like a soundtrack to a Peter Greenaway movie.  Generally
though, the mood is more melancholic, with the haunting "Civil War Lament" and
"trapeze Boy"'s striking whimsy improving with each successive listen.

The unifying thread in this tapestry is an angular approach to both subject
matter and musical performance.  Why write about man-meets-woman when you can
sing about man-turns-into-bird ("Birdowner") ?  Why use a guitar line when you
can insert incidental studio chatter to add texture ("Geneva 4am") ?  The
problem with such volleys into the unknown is that they don't always hit their
targets.  "Number Eleven" and "Ramble" seem too willfully obscure, and
sometimes the intricate machine-generated rhythms of programmer Pryce Surplice
drain the material of its subtlety.  But such is the downside of the risk
taking which elsewhere reaps rewards.

Both Kilbey and McLennan have previously had clearly defined styles and
occasionally here one of their inputs predominates.  "Thought That I Was Over
You" sounds like an outtake from '16 Lovers Lane' wile "Everything Takes
Forever" would not seem out of place on one of Kilbey's solo records.
Generally though, the hybrid has its own unique character and that, above all,
is Jack Frost's greatest achievement.  For once the whole is truly greater
than the sum of its parts and in this case that is no mean feat.
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