The feeling that Here We Stand would hit the sophomore slump may have been inevitable. Following The Fratellis’ debut album, Costello Music, was a daunting task at best. While Costello Music had made the band famous internationally, the legacy of Here We Stand would be that of the album leading to the band’s break up.
Costello Music is a beloved record. It is a collection of pub punk songs, featuring characters, wit and tales best told over a pint glass. The unstoppable swagger of “Chelsea Dagger” remains the band’s most famous song, if for no other reason than as the victory anthem of the Chicago Blackhawks. Here We Stand is the album that turned off everyone I knew from the band. They stopped following The Fratellis’ career almost immediately, opting instead to replay Costello Music for the next 10 years.
The Fratellis had established a solid sound for themselves in Costello Music, including a series of incredible B-Sides for their singles. Here We Stand bears the burden of trying something different. Instead of reveling in eccentric punk, the music slowed down, added a piano and much cleaner production. In retrospect, the change isn’t that drastic, but at the time, it sounded like a complete genre shift. The characters and stories were gone, and a dash of blues influence seeped into the songs.
Here We Stand is a good album, but not a great one. Despite its best efforts, the album feels disjointed. The songs are slower than anything on Costello Music and seem caught somewhere between writing sessions. Some extra time may have found a stronger product. Songs meant to be jams, such as “A Heady Tale”, find the guitar hidden beneath a melody of piano that awkwardly gives way to the bridge after each chorus. “Lupe Brown” mixes simple guitar parts with a doo-wop styled chorus, and “Acid Jazz Singer” finds harder guitar licks dampened by a pop chorus.
For two years, Costello Music was a staple for my friend group. Less than a week after the release of Here We Stand, I was the only one still listening. A year later, the band went on a three year hiatus that, for all purposes, left the album dead. When The Fratellis finally returned with We Need Medicine, the time given to let this new sound simmer created a much tighter album that managed to achieve the sound that Here We Stand had attempted.
Though The Fratellis continue to move away from the sound of their debut to this day, Here We Stand is the album that started that journey. It’s not perfect by any means, but without the experimentation on this album, the band would most likely be trapped trying to rewrite their debut over and over instead of making the music they want to.
by Kyle Schultz