Review Summary: Exclusively American EP release serves its purpose, while also impressing.
What do they say about striking while the iron is hot? Just like any industry, musicians / record labels need to do anything they can to grasp opportunities when they arise, because a 2nd chance may never present itself. Scottish trio The Fratellis knew they had something fairly special with their debut full-length release 'Costello Music', but its success was initially limited to the United Kingdom (reaching #2 on the charts). When opportunity came knocking in the unlikely form of an iPod advertising campaign, America was there to be conquered... But it needed a little push.
An enormous amount of publicity was sure to be generated via the iPod advertisements which included their song 'Flathead', but the band and label did not take the risk of presuming it would automatically result in album sales. So in order to give the American public some value for money, they released a special 4 track EP only in the U.S. In theory, it was a terrific idea as it not only made the purchase more affordable, but also showcased another highlight track from 'Costello Music'. Meanwhile, already converted fans were presented with 2 earlier recordings of the band.
'Flathead' logically kicks things off here with its vibrant bouncy feel and super fun attitude. The most impressive aspect of this cut is the way in which The Fratellis effectively switch pace from slowed-down acoustic passages to raucous faster and louder moments that highlight their rock band status. It perfectly sets up the foot-tapping chorus which literally is Jon Fratelli singing "Ba Da Bup Ba Da Da Da" over and over again.
In choosing 'Henrietta' as the other 'Costello Music' track to be included on this EP, The Fratellis wisely picked a cut which was very good, yet not the best off of the album ('Chelsea Dagger'). Continuing to sell the band's rollicking good fun nature, this adds something different in the form of a charming aspect through the effective use of horns. It is a little stronger lyrically too as it tells the story of an older woman stalker. It is just a shame that the breakdown turns into something akin to duck quacks!
Rounding things out are 'Stacie Anne' and 'Cigarello'. The former, which was previously included on the band's self-titled debut EP, is a decent Clash-like rapid-fire rocker that highlights the punk traits of The Fratellis in amongst a relatively catchy chorus. Meanwhile, 'Cigarello' was desperately unlucky to miss the final cut of 'Costello Music' (eventually being used as Henrietta's B-Side) as it is a super fun sing-along right from the opening second. The chorus here actually lasts for 4 lines which is something unusual from the band, while there is even a guitar solo thrown in for an added reason to get your body moving.
Ultimately, 'The Fratellis EP' ticks all the boxes for an EP release; It has a reason to exist, showcases a genuine highlight from the band and also provides listeners with an opportunity to hear a varying degree of musical styles. The Fratellis do not do slow and emotional all that well, so it was wise to exclude a methodically paced track. In that sense, this EP masks the trio's weaknesses and an argument can be made that it is actually better than 'Costello Music'. Either way, it is a very good 4 track EP.
Recommended Tracks: Flathead & Cigarello.