Review Summary: A great rock debut that was too quickly forgotten.
It's a good thing The Fratellis are definitely back now. Many people probably shrugged or displayed mild interest when they realised that the Glaswegian three-piece while they had not split up, were clearly not writing any new music. This could be because they had heard Chelsea Dagger seven-hundred-million times, that vague boyish chant unfortunately proving the perfect thing for morons stumbling back from their local pub at two in the morning to start roaring again and again, but it's a shame that more people are not pleased that the band is definitely back because their debut was one of the most competent and fun albums that had been released for quite a while. The follow up, Here We Stand
was decent, but paled in comparison to Costello Music
which was an album that barely had a bad song on it and mixed bouncy guitar work, eccentricity and humour to just the right degree. The band only really took off in the UK, possibly because their music feels too British(despite the band obviously being Scottish) to be truly understood their which is the only explanation I can think off as the band actually had a bit of publicity in relation to the States, Flathead appearing on an IPod advert but to no avail. Their loss.
Possibly the most impressive thing about the album looking back at it now is the opening five tracks (or four I guess if you're really that bored with Chelsea Dagger), this is how you open an album. Henrietta seems to be about a clingy woman who has become obsessed with the band thanks to her own life and husband being so dull and is a great opener with a fast-paced blast of a chorus and being a good example of Jon Fratellis guitar work as he has quite a fondness of using full bar-chords instead of power-chords which gives some of the riffs a much more expressive feel than they would have if they were bogged down with the least interesting rock guitar trick out there. The next song, Flathead, similarly fares well being in 7/4 which in popular music makes it a very interesting as generally anything other than 4/4 is viewed with suspicion and disgust. Flathead uses some pretty good acoustic guitar and some nice lyrical dexterity with lines such as 'and hey flathead don't you get mean/ she's the second best killer that I ever have seen. The next song with the not so clever play on words, Cuntry Boys & City Girls is also good in the lyrical department and helped by the fact that it doesn't take itself even slightly seriously with lines like 'cinderella cinderella shes my very kind of fella', but that is one of the things that makes the album great. The Fratellis didn't create this music to make you ponder life and universe but music that cheers you up and makes you almost want to be the moron stumbling home with his mates.
Whistle For The Choir, however, is the song that comes the closest to disproving what I just said. Its a slow minor ballad told from the perspective of a drunkard stumbling down a long street and is handled well by the band not coming over as too deadpan but still genuine and the whistling on the track works to the songs advantage, as it fits well with the idea of a drunk stumbling home. It seems a bit useless talking about the next track but despite its overplay it does still hold up pretty well with an enjoyable verse and what seems to be the chorus only played once near the end. Despite these very strong first five tracks the rest of the album holds up pretty well with Creepin Up The Backstairs being a definite highlight sporting the previously mentioned chord work and some nice bluesy guitar licks, its also no less catchy than the rest of the album. Baby Fratelli is also good with a stompy chanting chorus.
Production on the album is consistently good and walks a good line between being raw and over-produced. The guitars sound pleasingly loose and raucous but when some more interesting instruments are introduced, such as the horns on Cuntry Boys... and the mandolin on Whistle For The Choir, they are tastefully mixed in and don't clash with distorted guitar work at all and I don't remember any instances where any members of the band drowned each other or clashed at all although this is helped by the fact that the basic band consists of only three members (they did sometimes take a small horn section and a keyboardist with them live though). Mince Fratelli, the drummer does a very strong job throughout, moments such as the intro to Creepin' Up The Backstairs hold up well and prove him to be well tuned into the music not throwing down over-complicated fills but still impressing.
Although I have largely talked about the good things on the album it is by no means perfect. While there are no terrible songs on the album there are the 'not quite as good ones' which come in the form of the last two tracks, 'Got Ma Nuts From A Hippy' and 'Ole Black 'n' Blue Eyes' which while far from being rubbish don't provide the quality riffs or chorus that the album has up until then got you used too which is a shame because if those tracks matched the rest of the albums quality then it wouldn't be far off being a classic. Vocally Jon is fun to listen too with enough of an accent to make his singing unique but still the pipes to deliver some strong melodies with confidence but also the slower moments with personality as well.
Overall if you never got round to listening to the whole album and only have ever heard some of the more over-played singles then it is well worth checking out with many a strong tune as this is one of the best British rock debuts in the last decade and is not getting any less entertaining.