The Frames have a wide and broad collection of songs, ranging from the purely personal lyric, through to intricate storytelling like the aforementioned Santa Maria. I finish with a question that, it seems to me, never loses validity with songwriters. That is the perennial question of whether lyricists should mix music and politics in their songs.”I’ve never had a great interest in politics, to be honest”, he answers almost automatically, before continuing: “I hear it all going on beside me, but it’s like it’s just a buzz in the background. I don’t know whether I’ve been fortunate or unfortunate to have lived a life where I don’t need to engage in it. It doesn’t nourish me. It doesn’t exhaust me. It’s just there. I know a little bit about it, I can talk shop in that area, but I’m not passionate about it. Politics and music?[musing For me, and this might seem pious [hesitates], but fuck it, maybe I am [laughs]. Music is medicine and dreams. For me that’s what music is, when it’s at its best. It makes time stop. It’s salve. For me music is a moment of peace, and quietude – ironically. Poetry on the other hand is different. Poetry stirs the blood. Poetry makes men go to war. If you listen to any of the speeches from Bush or the statements from Al-Qaeda, it’s all poetry, and that’s what makes men kill. For me singing a political song is like me trying to sell you a Volvo, only because it’s like selling an idea. If I write a song about a situation, some people can do that very convincingly, but I don’t think that I can. It’s something I admire. I admire Damien Dempsey for example. It’s not even that he writes political songs, he writes songs about social situations and his people. You have to be very strong to write and sing songs like that. If you can see someone like that as a troubadour or a herald, that’s not what I am. I’m more like a little cinema. I’m a little world cinema in the corner of the town square, inviting you in to look at something. Follow the story and forget about the politics for a little while. I’ve always had a real problem with people standing up on a stage and singing those songs. As much as I love Dylan, and as much as I love so many other singers who’ve done that, for me selling an idea is like using music to sell McDonalds. It’s wrong. Not that commerce is bad, it’s not, but it’s not in the same realm as music. It’s like using naked women to sell beer. Naked women are beautiful, they’re sacred. They’ve been depicted through the millennia as being the source of all man’s inspiration, and yet you put a woman in an American flag bra and put her with a bottle of Budweiser – you’re taking something sacred just to shift some units.”
Late that evening, in a Union Jack festooned hyper-disco, somewhere in the heart of nowhere, questions about politics, about ethics and the music industry fade away, as the band rip through a set of classics and new songs, which for the majority of the audience are the same. The fans, some of whom have travelled from Austria, others from different parts of Italy, are relatively few in number but hugely enthusiastic. Those who have drifted in to watch the show, drawn by the pull of britpop, are tapping their feet. While there may be conflicts and contradictions in their heads, when the Frames are on stage these aren’t apparent.
When they’re on stage, they are extraordinary.