Album Review: Martin Frawley – The Wannabe

The former Twerps leader delivers an emotionally resonant second solo record

Back in 2016, Martin Frawley was the frontman of Twerps, one of the best Australian bands of this millennium. Off the back of their superb 2015 album Range Anxiety, the Melbourne-based quartet looked destined for massive things. But behind the scenes, things were fragmenting. In a desperate attempt to keep the band together, Frawley wrote a song, tellingly titled ‘This Is Gonna Change Your Mind’. It didn’t.

Twerps split up and the next we heard from Frawley was his frustrated solo debut Undone At 31. Four years later, he’s back. Now happily married and with a successful sideline in wine (happy to review that too, Martin), it’s significant that he’s chosen to open his second solo album with the song he wrote to keep his old band together. With a few years’ space, ‘This Is Gonna Change Your Mind’ now sounds less like a last-ditch plea and more a moment of clarity, the realisation why something so good had to end so soon. Musically, its ramshackle jangle puts it in the same bracket as The Clean’s ‘Anything Could Happen’. It’s that good.

Martin Frawley - This is Gonna Change Your Mind (Official Music Video)

The Twerps’ split lingers further. On the title track, an acerbically funny rant at the music industry, Frawley rages at the tight-fisted bar owners, clueless label heads and disparaging punters who would try and steer his ship onto the rocks. There’s more than a little vim and venom when he spits, “There’s nothing in front of me said two small men who said I’m just a f*cking wannabe”. Even on the lovely ‘I Wish Everyone Would Love Me’ there’s a sense that Frawley’s still professionally frustrated.

The Twerps’ demise isn’t the only shadow of loss on The Wannabe. On the jittery ‘5th Of The 5th’, Frawley addresses the memory of his father (guitarist Maurice Frawley), singing “It’s a hard act to follow, holding your name/I just want you to be proud”. Later, he pays even more moving tribute, closing the album with one of his father’s own songs, the gorgeous ‘Given Everything’.

Martin Frawley - Lola (Official Wedding Video)

The counterpoints to these songs about loss and legacy are some of Frawley’s loveliest tunes to date. On ‘Lola’, ‘Slip Away’ and ‘My Heart Beats’, he exudes a sense of easy contentment. All are clear-eyed, full-hearted love songs to his new wife and show a great distance travelled from the anguish that was woven through Undone At 31.

Across its honest confessionals and warm love songs, The Wannabe maintains an inviting, laidback vibe. The production is unfussy and clean, the pace mostly relaxed. Frawley recorded the 10 songs with a close group of friends from the Melbourne scene (including members of Dick Diver, Boomgates, The Drones and Tyrranamen) and their easy camaraderie shines through. If Undone At 31 was the end of one chapter in Martin Frawley’s life, The Wannabe very much feels like the beginning of a whole new one, a new dawn to a promising new day.

Released: 23 June 2023
Label: Trouble In Mind
On Tour: Dates TBC