So there's this Irish band that forms while its members are still rosy-cheeked adolescents, signs to Island Records and begins recording smart, politically aware songs. But the year is 1993, not 1980 U2 and the Cranberries have America's ears for Eire, thank you very much. The Frames, led by class-conscious songwriter Glen Hansard (whose face remains familiar, thanks to the classic 1992 movie The Commitments, in which he played guitarist Outspan Foster), stick it out anyway, shuffling labels and bass players, recording a couple of decent albums that hint at greatness in chrysalis. Then Steve Albini puts Hansard and his reduced crew in a Chicago studio and fusses not at all over effects, technology or even tuning. The band issues its first brilliant album, 2001's smoldering For the Birds, then ... cancels an American tour, endures another lineup shift and changes labels again. This year's furious Burn the Maps, another survey of ruined emotional and social architecture, is among 2005's best albums, but reports suggest that Hansard and his bandmates are even more riveting live. Enjoy this bizarro-world U2 while you can two U.S. tours in more than a decade of making music don't bode well for future opportunities.