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Formula for Success
Artist: The Frugals
Label: Toupee Records 
Length: 11 tracks / 36:15 min
They say Rock is in, but Ska is dead. So I guess we’d better ditch the brass, and grow our mullets instead
(from ‘Long Live All That Is Rock’)

Arriving about a year too late, the Frugals unashamedly pronounce themselves fans of all that is ska with their eleven-track sophomore project. Falling into pretty much the same vein as Five Iron Frenzy and about a dozen other brass-including bands which have popped up over the last few years, the Frugals have managed to pick the worst time to come out with a ska album: just as the ska-genre as a whole is commencing its rapid landslide into that place called UNTRENDY. Oh well, at least to the few die-hard fans still skanking bravely, the Frugals have produced an appealing disc to add to their collection.

The album charges into full-steam with "Geek Got the Window Seat," an energetic tune lyrically very much like Five Iron Frenzy’s "Suckerpunch." "Geek Got the Window Seat," in a nut shell, summarizes what the remainder of Formula for Success is like: simple, happy melodies carried with lots of energy; big, crunchy guitar tones; a cheery brass section; a lighthearted approach to a serious issue. Sure, there are some minor deviations along the way, including some rapping along the lines of PAX 217, but for the most part Formula for Success remains an easy-to-describe album. Which, with only eleven tracks totalling a little over 35 minutes, is not such a bad thing.

Obviously taking hints from Five Iron Frenzy, lyricists Shane Shepherd and Lachlan Johnston address a variety of issues, with shades of humor incorporated in most songs. While obviously an outspoken band of Christians, not every song deals with strictly "Christian" topics. "Long Live All That Is Rock" talks about bands who just play whatever happens to be the trend at that time. "My Jolly Marmoset" playfully discusses the problem of animal extinction (not too common a topic in modern music). On the whole, the songs are well-written, but not as striking as they could be considering the fact that some interesting issues are attacked. 

Having just played some of their first shows outside of the Brisbane area as a major act for Christian music fest “Sonfest,” the release of Formula for Success may not have been at such a terrible time after all. With their excellent live show (they are a much better live band than studio band) they will undoubtedly have made new fans. Those fans will find themselves an enjoyable summer album which should keep their toes tapping for a few weeks. 

Eric Daams 2/11/2001


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