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The Frogs

As alleged "gay supremacists" who rattled the cage of underground music with 1989's cult classic It's Only Right and Natural, Dennis and Jimmy Flemion have gone beyond telling the world "we are homos, hear us roar." Racially Yours found the two singing about ethnic tension -- one in blackface, the other in whiteface -- in an attempt to shock members of both polarized tribes. And with a huge, unreleased backlog of "made-up songs" (enough to rival both Ween and New Zealand's Tall Dwarves), this Milwaukee-based duo inspire curiosity every time they present themselves to the listening public.

The pair's first full-throttle, studio-recorded album to date gives plenty of reasons to uncork some champagnski in the name of all things perverted. With customarily savage humor, the Froggies pool from their strum-happier sides for a solid collection of pastoral folk rock. They blend muted drums, toy pianos, harps, horns, strings, and a raft of acoustic guitars into lush and engaging tapestries. With lyrics elevated above mere crudeness (consult their 1996 release My Daughter the Broad for their raunchiest batch), the two have reached a maturation point that now employs orchestral arrangements to soften their honest contempt for everything under the sun.

By letting younger brother Jimmy handle vocals this time around (elder Dennis conjures little more than a slimy Grandpa Simpson), any stigma the Frogs hold as a one-joke band can finally be dissolved for good. Jimmy's voice is terrific. Heartfelt ballads like "The Longing Goes Away" and "Bad Mommy" shimmer with goddamn beauty; even over-the-top numbers such as "Nipple Clamps" (with the knee-slappin' line, "Wear them like you mean it") somehow manage to locate much feeling despite any willful jocularity -- it's Ray Davies by way of Bob Crane. "Better Than God" offers motivation therapy while a delightfully egotistic "Enter I" might have you double-taking for Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices. And jeepers, there's even a Bob Dylan cover: "Billy."

As treasured irritants go, the Frogs have an indie cred that most bands would kill for. (Just ask Eddie Vedder, Billy Corgan, and the Breeders.) Best of all the brothers Flemion not only found a way to keep it but improved upon it musically.

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John La Briola

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