Before the release of every Frames album comes the hope/expectation/ assertion that this will be the one to give them the wider international audience they richly deserve. With such goodwill and so many wanting you to succeed comes the argument that The Frames, like many other Irish artists, have been somewhat insulated from the critical rigour that should accompany their work.

The answer many would give is that The Frames have never made a dud. And, once again, 'The Cost' is a strong record, but if it does prove to give the band their big breakthrough then the question as to whether its predecessor 'Burn the Maps' was the better album deserves to be asked all the louder.

As expected, there isn't any filler on 'The Cost'; it's anthemic, has two classics in 'Song for Someone' and 'Rise' and has that all too rare sound of musicians sparking off each other in a studio.

What it also does is rely too heavily on the same tempo. With the exceptions of 'When Your Mind's Made Up' and 'The Side You Never Get to See', the pace is consistently downbeat and, as a result, the album lacks the dynamics of 'Burn the Maps'. Spread these 10 songs out across different records and you've got some show-stoppers, put them all together on one and you'd hope that the setlist doesn't involve playing 'The Cost' in sequence from start to finish.

If every album should have one lesson that's the same for both the listener and the artist, the one here is that The Frames have, for the moment, taken the slow song as far as they should and that, in the interests of making sure no-one settles into a comfort zone, the follow-up should be faster, livelier and happier. 

There's no doubt there are some breathtaking views here, it's just that sometimes the hike is too draining between them.

Harry Guerin