No one could listen to The Frames and think “wow, they sound really confrontational or inaccessible”. So quite how they came to polarise the nation into bitter warring tribes is a mystery. Everybody knows at least one person – or 10 – who would lay down their life for The Frames. And conversely, everybody knows at least one person – or 10–- who would like to rush the stage and smash Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s lovely, wistful violin over Glen Hansard’s head.
Conor Masterson's gorgeous monochrome chronicle of 18 months on tour with The Frames is far too otherworldly to care about such petty squabbles. This is not a concert film, tour diary or complete history. This is an art doc, a pretty collection of flotsam and jetsam: a lonely white horse; Glen belting out The Old Triangle in O'Donoghues; dressing room chatter; crisply recorded live performances; a flock of birds overhead. The film owes almost as much to the contemporary hypno- doc ( Two Years at Sea, La Quattro Volte, Sleep Furiously ) as it does to the average rockumentary.
Debuting director Masterson has created a shapely, bespoke movie around his subject: The Frames, after all, are an art band. When its members speak about music, they do so unabashedly and passionately. As with their live performances, they’re not afraid of earnestness or failure or references to Tai Chi.
If you've never happened on Glen Hansard before, we can't think of a better place to start than his account, on camera, of realising the importance of his art: "My heart got broken," recalls the front-man. "First time it ever happened. I was 21 and I turned on the radio one day and suddenly everything I knew about music was turned on its fucking head. It went straight through me like a spear."
Fans will surely relish such honest banter and dreamy mantras, such as: “Music is a solvent to the glue that makes our hearts unreceptive.” Non-fans are unlikely to drink the available Kool Aid.
And that’s just fine. Music documentaries are a tough sell right now, but if anyone can fill cinemas, The Frames travelling army can. Let them know, won’t you?