Album Review: The Fratellis – Here We Stand

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It has been more than two years since we were first introduced to Jon, Barry, and Mince Fratelli, whose vibrant, bar friendly “Flathead” first caught the attention of Apple, and then the entire world, resulting in yet another musically catchy, lyrically witty, British success story. From a standpoint of pure fun, nothing seemed to top the Fratelli’s debut album, Costello Music, a 13-track work of pure musical bliss, offering a true taste of the joy that can be found in music.

More than anything, it was simple – offering the type of sound you’d rather unconsciously dance along with, rather than sit down and analyze – a style that emphasized the band’s strengths and covered up their flaws. Yet as The Fratellis gear up to release their long-awaited follow up, Here We Stand, it appears that the band will go down as yet the latest victim of the dreaded sophomore slump, once again exhibiting that doing more isn’t always a good thing.

Here We Stand kicks off strong as a pulsating, Arctic Monkeys worthy guitar rhythm introduces us to the album’s first track, “My Friend John”, a Fratellis instant classic, full of a contagious sing-a-long chorus and an equally exciting sound. The song serves as a perfect introduction to where Costello Music left off, reliving the unhealthy amount of energy and bounce found of “Flathead” and “Baby Fratelli”, while also attempting to set a precedent for what is to come.

This over infectious catchiness is maintained in the album’s following track, “A Heady Tale”, while also offering a bit of a change up in styles thanks to a Ben Folds-like piano part included in the usual guitar-heavy instrumentation. The song not only proves to be Here We Stand’s most unique piece, but also, its best, exemplifying the fact that the Fratellis are indeed capable of going beyond what has become their trademark two-minute pop songs.

Unfortunately, from this point on, further attempts at any sort of style change are all but abandoned, while the captivating, head-bopping appeal that came to define Costello Music is lost all together, resulting in musical journey of repetitiveness and forced sound.  “Shameless” is two minutes too long, while “Look Out Sunshine!”, though a bit reminiscent of “Whistle For The Choir” and “Ole Black ‘N’ Blue Eyes, two of more simpler gems found on the band’s debut album, becomes almost unbearable by the time the chorus is repeated for what seems like the 10th time.

In other words, raging rock simplicity is essentially replaced by misguided experimentation as the Fratellis took what they were great at, the aforementioned two-plus minute, blending vibrant dance rock with a fun chorus, and tried, for whatever reason, to stretch them out another two minutes. The result is an album full of overly repetitive choruses and songs that lose all remaining form of luster halfway through. By the time  “Strangler’s Moon” is on, just the album’s fifth track, I found myself looking down to see if I had mistakenly turned on the repeat button.

“Mistress Mabel”, the album’s first single, offers a glimpse of hope, only to eventually fall as another victim to length. As does “Jesus Stole My Baby”, “Baby Doll”, and  “Lupe Brown”. “Tell Me a Lie” features a few impressive, Jack White-esque guitar solos, but again offers little in terms of vocal appeal and uniqueness.

The Fratellis finally seem to get it on “Milk a Money” as the initial piano driven sound transitions to a more rockier, even psychedelic style, offering an engaging and structurally solid piece. Unfortunately, it is also the album’s last song and is unable to redeem the disappointment of Here We Stand’s prior eight tracks.

For a band that relies so much on simple catchiness of their sound to outweigh what their lyrics often lack, the Fratellis choose to abandon their strong point for the prospects of length and complexity. The result is an album that’s only memorable quality is the fact it serves as yet another example of a band unable to follow up the debut hype. As a band whose most appealing characteristic is their contagious energy, the Fratellis are what they are, nothing more, and nothing less. There was no need to change what works, or prove something that obviously doesn’t gel with neither their makeup, nor style. Unfortunately, it appears guess someone forgot to tell this to the Fratellis.

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