Album Review: Frank Schweikhardt “Life But No More”

frank schweikhardt

When I first heard Frank Schweikhardt was recording a solo project a few years ago, I didn’t know what to expect. Prior to that, all I’d heard from Frank was his deep barking voice and explosive guitar playing in the band Away With Vega, so taking all of those elements down to just him and a guitar was unexpected. On a personal level, what I knew about Frank was that he was a nice guy; kind of quiet, but ready to talk when he had something to say. And usually when he did speak, it was a conversation that you wanted to listen in on, full of insight and deep thought. I feel like Frank really plugs that longtime pondering of possibilities into his music, often using simple, minimal lyrics, emotionally tainted yet complex guitar playing, and a soft but matter-of-fact delivery in vocals. His voice is quiet, and his music is longing, but his message is clear, so if you give it a little patience and listen, you may learn from what he has to say.

lifebutnomore

Life But No More is Frank Schweikhardt’s second full-length release. It’s step up from 2007’s Make An Ugly Friend in that he’s added more instruments into the mix and dedicated more planning and time into the production and recording quality. Once again, it is a collection of thoughts, ideas, and reflections of life and its experiences; in contrast, there are less words on this album. Most of the songs are slow-driving, and some are almost entirely instrumental save for one or two lines of lyrics. Branching out in sound development, this album accompaniment with an electric guitar and drums on most of the songs, giving this collection of tunes a little more weight and style.

But don’t think that more instruments means Schweikhardt is abandoning his style and ready to rock out just yet. Of the album’s ten songs, only three of them (“Silver & Gold”, “Twin Cities”, and “Level Light”) can be considered for genuine foot-tapping pace, with “Level Light” being my favorite of the fast batch. The song opens with a chasing guitar melody which leads up to the song’s only line “You should be strugglin’, ’cause we’re all not sufferin’“. Although this track is the longest, clocking in at 4:43, I feel it is one of the fastest to get through, with the help of the progressing guitar line that pushes through the movement of the song like a train ride.

This album is full of strong songs with single lyric messages, such as the opening track “The Dead”, which opens with its chorus “Break the Bread, And Drink the Blood, of the Lord“. Or the second track “Lisbon” which flows through nearly two and a half minutes of guitar and drums before Schweikhardt nearly mumbles the tracks two lines “Can we close our eyes?Can we just lie down??“, followed by him humming the melody. Such songs are as effective in entrancing the imagination as they are in provoking thought.

The strongest song of Life But No More, in my opinion, is the pair of songs “Disclaim” and “Claim”. Separate, they are simple, repetitive ideas, but together, they create an emotional, question/response type of understanding. “Disclaim” opens with some simple guitar strums accompanied by drowned electric guitar notes, it sounds a lot like waking up in the morning, looking out the window, and contemplating the day that will follow. The slow-picked main pattern begins, similar to looking back into the dark room behind the window shade and pondering away about life’s many unanswered or undesired questions. Schweikhardt sets up a similar situation/question in his lyrics “They don’t love you./Are you scared?Are you scared?” The song carries on in a repetitive fashion and leads into the responding song “Claim” just before three and a half minutes. “Claim” is kicked off by timekeeping taps, and a new, lighter melody in which the lyrics respond:

I’m the old man…
There’s not a righteous bone in my body…
I’m the sick man…
Am I fighting demons or letting them in?…
I’m the dead man…

Such songs are what really bring out the thoughts and emotions going through Schweikhardt’s head to life and make this album a must-hear. Moving toward a full band approach was a step in the right direction, as the more rounded sound gives the songs more color and density. This is a much more refined attempt from Frank Schweikhardt and a positive move forward in his songwriting career.

Life But No More will be available November 17, 2009 from Crossroads of America Records.

Frank Schweikhardt on MySpace
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Crossroads of America Records

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One response to “Album Review: Frank Schweikhardt “Life But No More”

  1. I agree with your review. This album is both soft and insightful, just like Frank the musician and the man. I love the vinyl format; it fits the overall mood of the album. Again, nice work.

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