Frank Hopkins introduces us to our own mortalities
Frank Hopkins is Portland’s last angry man. Like the old Jewish doctor in that 1959 Oscar winner, played by Paul Muni, Hopkins is a throwback who spends most of his time upholding old-time values and helping others largely for the sake of its own reward. In Hopkins’s case, those old-time values are the anti-establishment underpinnings of rock and roll, and the help he doles out is largely in the form of recording and production work with his Sweet Dream Recording studio for much of the Cat & Mouse crowd and various other up-and-coming singer/songwriters. His playing credits would fill feet of Web space on allmusic.com if anybody ever took the time to catalog them.
A PLACE IN THE WORLD: Hopkins makes his own.
On Hopkins’s sophomore record, Make Love ‘Til Doomsday, his anger often manifests itself in a dark cynicism, though he describes it as a “blueprint for enjoying human survival in the next century.” It’s enough to make you wonder what his definition of “enjoying” is. Right off the bat, in “Einstein Song,” Hopkins makes clear his belief that “this world, it’s a world full of lies” in the context of a love song that also forces the conclusion that “I believe in love, why’s it never enough?”
A broken heart and a serious political disillusionment is a powerful combination.
It’s all very much worth a listen as long as you can get past Hopkins’s uncanny aping of Tom Waits with his delivery. While Hopkins dresses his vocals in more digital effects than Waits would ever use, his husky growl is nonetheless a dead ringer for Waits on many occasions, and Waits’s voice isn’t exactly run of the mill. Logically, however, you’ve got to conclude that no one would ever decide to just sing exactly like Tom Waits, so you’ve got to further conclude that Hopkins is just singing from the heart, and Tom Waits is what comes out. No one with his self-righteousness could live with himself otherwise.
And there’s nothing wrong with a little self-righteousness. Somebody in this town has to stir the pot a little. Largely, anyone with a political bent currently exists outside the mainstream club scene and is only heard from at the Common Ground fair. But Hopkins is out there playing in just about any joint with a stool in the corner, and busting out lines like, “We’re obscene and we’re bloated and we like it in here.” Though in that “Day Ignorance Won,” he also points the finger back at himself: “I’d like to think my hands aren’t dirty/And I’d like to think my hands they are clean/But I still pay my taxes, and I support your wars/And I still buy gasoline.”
Still, I’ve got the same uneasy feeling about my thousands of tax dollars going to buy little itty bitty pieces of bombs while my car burns plenty of gas during my half-hour commute, but I’m not quite to the point of: “There are 14 traits of fascism and my America has touched on every one,” from “Ghost Story.” Hopkins pulls no punches.
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