The Worst Album of 2012

00:02, Dec 06 2012

Franko is Franko Heke Yates and his album Vagabond has been taking up space at my place for a couple of months now.

I can only presume Franko saw Rock of Ages and left, spellbound, starstruck, and was heard to mumble in a fake-Encino Man accent, "wow, what an incredible documentary".

Franko's album Vagabond has been years in the making - and it answers the question of what the feelers might sound like if they started covering Poison's aborted B-sides. Yes, remember how everyone was asking that question; just had to know how that would play out, right?

The first song on Franko's album is called Fade Away. And being influenced, in this day and age, by Joe Satriani is one thing - but taking him as a vocal template? That's not kind. That's not cool. That's not music. That's a lose/lose situation.

Franko gained column inches a couple of years ago with a sincere All Black Anthem he composed. It was, just as likely, a sincere bid for headlines and column space - and it worked. And from there the game has continued.

This occasionally horrific, often absurd, deeply disturbing album features a Limp Bizkit trace-around called Turning Lies, a song called Scorn which tells me that the New Zealand pro-wrestling scene has started scouting for its own pay-per-view soundtracks, and a songwriting 101 ballad-feel load of dross called The One. This one is particularly special because it was co-written with Jacob Bunton. Never heard of him? He's a crucial touchstone for this project - he's the frontman for the band that features Steven Adler, the drummer who was kicked out of Guns N' Roses.


Local press and radio stations have fallen over themselves to tell the story that a Kiwi kid has worked with someone who has worked with someone who was emotionally scarred and borderline-abused by Axl Rose.

But it really is a crucial touchstone, that collaboration. That desperate sniff at the bootstraps of former-fame informs presumably-jokey/oh-no-he's-actually-serious material like Rock N Roll Girls. The sort of song that might embarrass Steel Panther. Just a bit.

Then there's Hate Is Love with its GuitarHero idea of a metal riff, more Satriani-styled singing and the thin suggestion that rock - real rock'n'roll, man! - might just be allowed a boutique-chic sleeveless denim jacket replica to go with its High Street popped collar.

Hero features this video. Enjoy! I didn't. I couldn't. You see I just can't get on with this faux-earnest, cloying junk. I don't believe it. I can't believe in it. And I'm insulted by it.

Franko is a product of the NZ Music Industry, even if he's played the away game - I reckon returning when it suits to boost his profile and funding chances. In fact that is precisely why he is a product of the NZ Music Industry. This is someone who I think has milked the kindness of such stupid schemes as - you gather your troops, everyone you've charmed, all your friends and their friends too and you engage in a popularity vote. Then you are convinced - instantly - that you have talent as a result. If everyone says so. Would that be the same lot of everyone that parties with you and SnapStarLive on the VIP bus?

That NZ On Air got behind this - offering up funding since Franko won one of their "Wild Card" lotteries - is not surprising. It's not even - any longer - disappointing. It's just how it is.

This is what is happening.

This is music in our country now - if it feeds on to a radio station, in this case The Rock, it's deemed a success. (I say now. It's been this way for far too long. But this feels like the straw arriving in time for the Christmas piñata: it's a camel this year. Aim for its back with the first smack!)

Franko's album is ludicrous. An insult. And yet we live in a country that prefers the logic of "if you don't like it, don't say anything" or "it's good for what it is" or "each to their own". And it is because of those non-attitudes, that passive-aggressive complacency, that we have things like Franko's Vagabond album.

I believe this guy has no loyalty to New Zealand - and for proof of that you need only listen to his bandwagon-jumping music. This guy is the musical equivalent of a Kardashian. He's making music in much the way that the makers of The Hills probably like to believe/deceive that they are. on some level, making intriguing, confronting television.

This is a comic book sound. A cartoon.

It's also - easily - the worst album I've heard all year.

Have you heard Franko's album? If so what do you think? If not you can preview the album here, try any of the songs I've mentioned.

And what's the worst album you've heard in 2012? Were there any albums this year that actually offended you?

Postscript: If you have a range of merchandise - and an album in the can - remind me why you need funding?

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