Album Art Grog

Frog – GROG (Audio Antihero)

Frog are back! If you’re responsible for any of their 9.8 million Spotify streams, then you know how much of a big deal this is. If you’ve not had the pleasure yet, know that their new album, GROG, is a wild after-party featuring jaded traffic cops, lusty Greek heroines, lit drive-thru servers, insecure jocks, and zombie prophets.

As with all of Frog’s releases, it carves its own niche, on its own terms. Sounding in turns like Silver Jews, Townes Van Zandt, and Jonathan Richman they make sweet, sad, urban Americana familiar enough to make us feel at home, but spend some time with it, and things get weird as hell. Quite literally, compared to previous albums, as chief Frog Dan Bateman, points out: “This album took a long time. If Kind of Blah is set in New York, and Count Bateman is set in LA in the ’70s, this one I think is set in Hades. Every song is a step deeper into the abyss.” Cooked up during a period that witnessed the birth of his twins and enough life-plot twists to rival a Netflix series on the brink of cancellation, this fifth instalment from Frog, (now the duo of brothers Daniel and Steve Bateman), emerges as their oddest and boldest to date.

Things kick off with the title track, essentially a Gothicised sample from Townsends YouTube channel, dispatching any preconceptions of what’s coming. Not all of it will make sense, and it definitely isn’t just more of the same, even within the album itself. Once across the threshold, however, Frog treat us to one magical moment after another, starting with the radiant chorus of ‘Goes w/o Saying’. A beautifully restless enigma, it echoes Grandaddy‘s elevated alt-country, infused with a triple espresso Martini and a modest Jesus complex. ‘420!!’ storms in next with the rebellious slam of a Cadillac door and some intense acoustic guitar shuffling. This time, it’s a hymn to heady teenage hedonism, cutting class, hitting the Taco Bell and figuring life all out before the last bell rings.

The insistent beat of ‘U Shud Go 2 Me’ fast-forwards through the manic aftermath of a love affair, framing the heartbreak through the mundane emotional wreckage of chicken pot pies, old clothes and teal lampshades. Then comes ‘Black on Black on Black,’ Frog’s funky three a.m. take on masculine insecurity, through the eyes of Odysseus “captive on the isle Omphalos,” begging Athena on his knees. Think The Blockheads, had they studied Classics at Rochester and met Lou Gramm instead. Perhaps the paranoia has started to kick in at this point in listening to GROG. There’s more than a hint of a foreshadowing in-joke on ‘DOOM SONG’, with Frog casually inviting us to “play the drums breathe slow,” because next, we’re lost in the fog of a Dexedrine nightmare on single ‘Maybelline’. The song speeds recklessly towards a collision with a predictable end, passing traffic cops, Dairy Queen stack burgers and mountainside murder scenes along the way. With another change of pace, ‘So Twisted Fate’ calls out the numbness that comes with pretending you don’t care for so, so long, that it disconnects you from those you love: “Don’t act like you never lost something that you wanted bad enough to call your bluff or mine”.

As GROG winds down, tensions are settled and a gentle nostalgia emerges, like the slow, wry curve of a knowing smile. In ‘Ur Still Mine’ we glimpse a life already lived, a family having come and gone and the precious memories left behind. How we feel about family is often left unsaid, but here Frog tell it from the heart: “Whatever it’s gonna be fine no matter big you get or far you go you’re always gonna be mine”. Similarly, ‘New Ro’ isn’t just an homage to a specific place (New Rochelle, NY, the Batemans’ hometown); it’s also a love letter to a shared history and to the unique eccentricities of sibling creativity. As Dan Bateman explains “My brother Steve became a real member of Frog for these recordings, and I believe the music we created together mirrors our relationship. It’s a delight to create music with the people you hold dear.”

‘Gone Back to Stanford’ closes, with its cautionary coming-of-age college tale, complete with betrayal, abandonment and false promises: “Fall guys made her cry, made her cry / Spring fling, the keg was dry, you’re just too shy”. As ever, even the shortest of Frog’s stories feels epic, with a whole world created in a few simple lines. This Froglore (because why not?) is absurd, optimistic, defiant and yet grounded by love for the human condition, with all of its faults and quirks. By rights, Frog should be huger than their millions of streams. For now, GROG is more than enough to double this, and beyond, given a chance.

‘Grog’ is released on 17 November via (out-of-retirement) Audio Anti Hero.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.