After sounding like the inside of a big dog's arse for the lion's share of their set at last weekend's Ramblin' Man Fair, I had my fingers crossed on Saturday night that I might hear this band properly. I was not disappointed. In the small room at Islington's O2 Academy, the mix was good.
Frost* are an extraordinary band. Part of their allure may be their commitment to hardly ever playing live. One expected to see Attenborough in attendance, such is the rarity of these creatures being on the stage together. It is, however, worth the wait. The innovation of the songwriting when paired with musicianship of this calibre is mesmerising. The material, though in many places technical, manages to flow, and the pop sensibility of chief writer Jem Godfrey ensures the gear changes are smooth.
Falling Satellites, released late May, is the third full studio album from Frost*. As ever the production is slick and beautifully layered, and largely impossible, one would think, to reproduce live. Somehow, here and there, they manage it. This is no mean feat. Heartstrings, for me the standout track on the album with astounding lyrical honesty and an epic, soaring chorus, was executed with both skill and feel. Frost* trust their audience enough to be honest during performance too. At one moment during a solo rendition of Last Day Godfrey choked on the lyrics and the chords. "I was thinking about my dad," he said. These moments are the bonus jewels of the live experience. Vulnerability in a system of precision.
Back-catalogue favourites such as Wonderland hit the mark as Godfrey and guitarist John Mitchell choose to imbue their performance with flippancy and variety-hall riffing. Ordinarily this could be naff but here it works, particularly when - unlike most music hall stalwarts - they have a truckload of talent to back it up. They have a sense of humour, a good sense of humour, and that can never be overappreciated in music.
There is talent all over the pitch, too. Nathan King's dextrous bass work and super-strong backing vocals complete the front line as virtuoso stick-wielder Craig Blundell works hard behind the kit.
Blundell is a gifted drummer, but one who gets caught out by his own tendency to overdrum on occasion. I would understand it if he was drumming for AC/DC, but surely there are enough progressive changes in the music of Frost* to keep him interested. This was particularly evident on the unnecessarily mellow Closer to the Sun, which to be fair to him, isn't the most enthralling piece. But that's a genuine anomaly. Frost* are burning and are capable of electrifying both new and established audiences if they can refrain from having extended hiatuses.
A stunning rendition of Black Light Machine topped it for me. Dazzling and elliptical. What a piece of work that is.
The Christmas theme was a nod to their dearth of live gigs (probably no chance of a festive one so may as well make this one double-up) and another signal of their love of the absurd. I wouldn't have been overly surprised if Mitchell and Godfrey started hitting each other with increasingly large frying pans. Their onstage chemistry is engaging and makes the moments they decide to go off-piste very joyful indeed.
All the members have innumerable other projects. Between them they're probably in about 20 bands. This does not inspire confidence in the longevity of Frost* - which is a terrible shame for music. But they are so elusive and surprising that they may really freak us out one day by being consistent.
Falling Satellites is available from themerchdesk.com and from iTunes.