Review Summary: The FUNtellis deliver an attention-getting debut album that overcomes the trio's limitations by being infectious, vibrant & just darn fun.
Scottish trio The Fratellis give you any number of reasons to dislike them. To begin with, they have decided to use the unnecessary gimmick of all having the stage surname of Fratelli. They are not exactly the most original band on Earth and their arguably repetitive and simple music sees them struggle when attempting variety. Furthermore, the lyrics contained within their songs occasionally verge on the ridiculous and contain a little too many Kaiser Chief-like "la la las" and "do do doos".
Why then, is it so difficult to dislike The Fratellis? The answer can be summed up in one word: FUN! The songs contained on their debut album 'Costello Music' are infectious, vibrant and simply make you feel good. And importantly, the trio do not take themselves too seriously, which is an important factor in having fun whatever one is doing. Critics of the band will point to all of their limitations, but those same critics probably have not had a night out of fun at their local pub or bar (a location this album suits perfectly) for years.
The Fratellis know how to gain your attention and hold it for as long as possible... Of the 13 cuts included on 'Costello Music', not a single one crosses the 4 minute barrier. And while there are undoubtedly a couple of songs too many and the album is fairly front-loaded, the ordering of the tracks never allows 'Costello Music' to get bogged down. Highlights are aplenty here, whether it be the charming opener 'Henrietta', the anthemic 'Chelsea Dagger' or the subject of the most recognizable of all iPod advertising campaigns, ‘Flathead’.
Another of The Fratellis' strengths (which ironically is another reason for a critic to dislike them) is their focused ability to perform what are essentially poppy songs in an accessibly rocking manner. They achieve this by effectively using striking changes of pace and volume (see 'Flathead' & 'Cuntry Boys and City Girls'), as well as various instruments (horns, banjo, acoustic guitars, etc...) at all the right times. Just when a listener appears settled, a guitar solo may emerge or vocal techniques will change. A good example of this is the under-rated 'Creepin' Up The Backstairs', which begins with alternating drums, hand-claps & guitars, before including both a very catchy bridge and chorus.
As mentioned, 'Costello Music' is not perfect and The Fratellis do indeed struggle when venturing outside of their comfort zone. The raw acoustic ballad 'Whistle For the Choir' is unconvincing, while both the blues-like number 'Doginabag' and the dated country sounding 'Vince The Loveable Stoner' required more refinement to succeed. Yet the band still has a decent strike rate when providing variety, as can be seen with the methodical melodies contained within 'Everybody Knows You Cried Last Night' and closer 'Ole Black 'n' Blue Eyes'. And no matter if the track is slow, fast, good or bad, the lyrical storytelling is fun, likeable and interesting, even if it occasionally gets a little silly.
'Costello Music' is undoubtedly an album that will divide opinion. Seemingly perfect for a debating competition, conflicting arguments can be made that this is either the best or worst album of 2006. Yet, with an above-average ratio of hits to misses and such a vibrantly fun outlook, the former should be closer to the truth than the latter. The Fratellis have done a little more than just be noticed with their full-length debut, they have become talked about, sung along with, danced to and even encouraged the air-guitar to be brought out.
Recommended Tracks: Chelsea Dagger, Flathead, Creepin' Up The Backstairs & Henrietta.