Review Summary: Scottish trio shifts gears & evolve into an arena-rock band with some trademark British twists, to produce a consistently even effort that does not deserve to be overlooked.
In this era of political correctness and clichés, it is surprising to hear brutal honesty nowadays. So when Scottish trio The Fratellis declared that their hit debut album ‘Costello Music’ was “not who we are”, one could not help but be taken aback. Apparently, that catchy, fun & poppy debut was simply to get the band noticed… A means to an end which would allow them to make the rock music they always wanted to. Approximately 20 seconds into opener ‘My Friend John’, it is apparent that there is a significant difference between ‘Costello Music’ and The Fratellis follow-up ‘Here We Stand’.
A crunching guitar riff enters proceedings at this stage, while the catchy chorus this time around is arena-rock through and through. It seems that The Fratellis have turned from loveable larrikins into professional rock musicians. Where-as before they were most comparable to the Kaiser Chiefs & Blur, they now sound more like the Arctic Monkeys & Oasis. The “la la la’s” are almost entirely gone (although piano-driven ‘A Heady Tale’ goes a little overboard), while greater variety exists via a piano ballad (closer ‘Milk and Money’) and a partially acoustic cut (the 1960’s like melody of ‘Babydoll’).
Thankfully, The Fratellis still have the knack for a winning hook, as well as an energy and likeability about them which pleases. The fun nature and vocal rhyming of ‘Acid Jazz Singer’ proves this and may be the closest thing to ‘Costello Music’. Yet, even it includes a thick guitar riff. Lead single ‘Mistress Mabel’ is probably the most accessibly poppy of the lot with its combined crashing of piano, drums & guitars causing an effective background ruckus. Meanwhile, the melodic nature of both ‘Look Out Sunshine’ and ‘Lupe Brown’, the latter including a genuine old-school guitar solo, will most likely result in them being released as singles also.
Yet, most of the highlights come when The Fratellis combine the arena-rock anthems of a band not too dissimilar to the Foo Fighters with a throwback to 1970’s glam-rock akin to T-Rex. In addition to the aforementioned opener, ‘Tell Me A Lie’ best showcases this with atmospheric propulsive verses eventually shifting tempo into a huge chorus and some guitar-related shenanigans in the breakdown. Track 3 ‘Shameless’ also exhibits these traits, while also being one of the many cuts to continue the tradition of fun and cheeky lyrics. “Is it me or are they getting younger every night, just because they can it doesn’t make it alright” sings Jon, who later professes on ‘Look Out Sunshine’ “I’m a cynical c*nt and I’m much too lazy to change”.
While there are no superior standout cuts here, there are few misfires either, with ‘Stragglers Moon’ & ‘Jesus Stole My Baby’ coming closest. Other weaknesses stem from a feeling that this has all been done before since it borrows from any number of British bands from the past 4 decades, as well as a general feeling of over-length. The latter deficiency predominantly arises because many of the songs unnecessarily fade on for too long, bringing the total length of the album to almost 53 minutes.
Entirely self-written and self-produced, it is clear that The Fratellis have matured on ‘Here We Stand’ and it pleasingly results in a consistently even effort which does not deserve to be overlooked. The only shame is that they do not quite hit an attention-demanding home run with any track, similar to what they were able to achieve with both ‘Chelsea Dagger’ and ‘Flathead’ from their debut. ‘Here We Stand’ is best recommended to those listeners with a liking for arena-ready rock that includes some trademark British twists.
Recommended Tracks: Tell Me A Lie, Mistress Mabel, Shameless & Lupe Brown.