Hailed as the great big electro-pop hope towards the end of the last decade, Vincent Frank, aka London one-man pop machine Frankmusik, then lost his way spectacularly with a hopelessly generic second album which saw him jump on the “fun in the club” bandwagon in a bid to crack the US, only to watch it barely crawl past the 2000 sales mark.
A recent unexpected collaboration with legendary drag queen RuPaul indicates the 28-year-old still hasn’t given up on his American Dream. But having wisely regained control of his career by setting up his own label, his fourth studio effort, By Nicole, suggests he now realises he doesn’t need to sacrifice everything that initially made him such an intriguing prospect in order to achieve it.
The glitchy Blade Runner-pop sound that defined his impressive debut Complete Me might be largely absent, with only the punchy electro of “Misdemeanor” coming anywhere near close. But the majority of By Nicole’s fifteen self-produced tracks do possess a similarly epic nature.
Setting the tone ahead perfectly, instrumental opener “White Table” is a grandiose blend of atmospheric synths and crashing cymbals worthy of gracing an Olympics opening ceremony. The slow-building electro-balladry of “Ephemeral Summer” and “Go” recall the chilly new romanticism of Ultravox in their early 80s heyday, while “Fire,” a cover of the track Frankmusik produced for his young protégé Kento back in 2012, and “Crash and Burn,” a dramatic showboating duet with the recently missing-in-action Natasha Bedingfield, both appear designed to blow the roof of any arena.
The constant bombast does inevitably become a little tiring, particularly on the Foreigner-esque overblown power ballad “Conclusions,” which suggests that Frankmusik could still perhaps benefit from just a little outside interference. But following on from last year’s partial return-to-form Between, By Nicole is another encouraging step in the right direction which proves he could still yet fulfil his early promise.