Every decade has its fair share of quirky acts but few were quite as unusual as Brighton’s Frazier Chorus. They employed an unusual set up of keyboards, clarinet, flute and percussion and were led by Tim Freeman; a rival for Neil Tennant as the most well-spoken singer of the time. Proving that he was a member of a talented family, Freeman is now probably best known as being the inspiration for the character of Tim in TV’s ‘The Office’, played by his own real-life brother Martin Freeman. In the first of what I hope will be three reissues, 1989 debut ‘Sue’ showcases much of their better known material.
‘Dream Kitchen’ is the song Frazier Chorus may be most remembered for but like Prefab Sprout’s ‘The King Of Rock And Roll’ it’s nowhere near their best song and could give the wrong impression that they were merely a novelty act. Indeed, Freeman and co. were equipped with better songs. To draw on an earlier comparison, ‘Storm’ reminds me of Pet Shop Boys on a budget.
‘Forty Winks’ is wistful and melodic, ‘Sloppy Heart’ and ‘Typical’ were typically witty singles (“I can almost smell my heart dropping down from my dripping vein” whispers Freeman on the former, in a typical case of flawed romance) and ‘Ski-Head’ is a wonderfully odd track. Yet my favourite track here is a B-side called ‘String’. A rather soppy song on the face of it but (like the all best songs of Frazier Chorus) it’s a sweet little thing played delicately but poignantly.
Granted, the 1980’s production has dated somewhat and Freeman almost narrates rather than sings but when Frazier Chorus were on their game they gave a good name to sensitive and literate synth-pop. Bring on the next two albums for reissue please!
Joaquin Esquivel, Scritti Politti, Pet Shop Boys