First published on 1 Feb 2013. Updated on 10 Feb 2013.
Frente! were a Melbourne inner city pop band led by impish guitarist Simon Austin and vocalist/waif Angie Hart, who established themselves at Fitzroy’s much-missed Punters Club, where Austin was a bon vivant barman.
After the independent Whirled EP in 1991, Mushroom Records signed the group to their White Label in 1992 and were paid back immediately and handsomely when ‘Ordinary Angels’ from the Clunk EP reached number 3 on the charts, a remarkable result for a new and quintessentially ‘indie’ band. Frente had an upbeat rhythmic vibe, and Hart’s intimate childlike voice was unique – the trippiness possibly influenced by her having grown up in communes.
With ‘Accidently Kelly Street’, the purposely (you’d hope) misspelled follow up, the band gambled, and won, on a song which bordered on nursery rhyme. Written by wistful bassist Tim O’Connor about an address in Collingwood, 'Accidently Kelly Street' was a celebration of the kind of share house which might be broken and filthy, but with the sun out and friendly pets circulating, and nothing much to do but hang out, is nothing short of a palace. Sweet sentiments. But with these opening lines: "Here's a door and here's a window / Here's the ceiling Here's the floor" there were guffaws a-plenty.
The video for 'Accidently Kelly Street' did nothing to disabuse those who felt the song was more Play School than rage; giant cardboard flowers and hair brushes and bunk beds, and a lot of really, really bad dancing by the band. The song was not just made fun of by serious people in serious bands, it was parodied (ruthlessly) by The Late Show on ABC TV. I reluctantly satirised it myself in a local magazine.
'Accidently Kelly Street' is what non-Frente people remember about Frente!, but the song in fact didn’t chart as well as 'Ordinary Angels', although it only fell short by one slot, peaking at four. On the back of these hits Frente!’s debut LP Marvin was a top 10 hit too. The next single, 'No Time', was more serious fare and, as a record biz reality check: it only scraped into the top 50. The band’s trajectory afterwards was messy. There was a US hit with an acoustic cover of New Order’s 'Bizarre Love Triangle', line-up changes, the usual hassles and tours and a late-'90s split. Hart continues to be involved in a variety of projects and seems to have escaped the whole strange affair unscathed.