Reflecting On: The Fratellis – Here We Stand

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

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and spilled a full cup of water on the floor like an amateur. Like, IMMEDIATELY after filling it.

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The Beautiful Evolution of The Fratellis

the_fratellisSeeing as how the Chicago Blackhawks just won their third Stanley Cup in the last six years, “Chelsea Dagger” by The Fratellis is going to be played religiously across the city like a wind storm. And for good reason.

Aside from arguably being the best and most recognizable song in the band’s catalog, it’s a reminder that Scottish indie rock magicians The Fratellis have the ability to utterly dominate with their music, captivating a city as one unit in the opening chant to “Chelsea” at every goal. With a new album, Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied announced just weeks ago, it’s a good time to remind you why this is something to be excited about.

The Fratellis are a weird bag, as they don’t fit in any scene. The best description is that of being a mixture between the high energy and funk of Franz Ferdinand and the engaging experimental subtleties of Brand New. A fan of any genre of music will find something that they love within just a few songs of any album; The raw, explosive energy of any song from Costello Music, the acoustic ballads (complete with mandolin on at least one occasion), the unabashed love letter to rock from Here We Stand, or the intricate tongue-in-cheek storytelling lyrics that follow characters from song to song across most albums. Every song is unique and oozing enough Brit pop to make Noel Gallagher vomit in the garden.

What sets The Fratellis apart is something that few bands can truly accomplish but most envy: evolution. Their first album, Costello Music made such a name for them with loud, unseemly intricate guitar rock, highly memorable choruses and riffs designed specifically to make rooms of people in pubs sing along word for word. The problem is that most people simply stopped following them afterwards, thinking that nothing could top it. Instead of simply making the same record twice, their sound has continuously evolved towards a bluesified version of their iconic energy, grabbing different ideas from every corner around them.

Jon Fratelli’s side project, Codeine Velvet Club, took the rampaging guitars and melody of Costello Music and added jazz elements and a horn section, along with the seductively feminine, smokey ‘fifties’ vocals of Lou Hickey, while his solo material focused on lower production and the thundering rampage of two drummers. When The Fratellis reunited soon afterward, their followup album, We Need Medicine incorporated these ideas back into the three man unit and pushed them even further.

Their reunion record wasn’t so much a reformulation of their past material like so many other bands, but instead was an accumulation of everything that had come before it. The band has never cut corners when it comes to evolving as artists, despite making their name with a specific sound.

Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied has only one song out so far, and it is vastly different, yet again, from anything that has come before it. “Me and The Devil”, the first single from the new album, is driven by piano, heavy drums, subtle bass and even subtler guitar. Even compared to the band’s previous endeavors, it’s out there.

Jon’s vocals are mellowed, smooth, and surrealistically channeling Death Cab For Cutie. It’s nothing that you’d expect from them, but it romances you into a serenity while listening. While there’s no definitive idea of what the album will sound like, it’s exciting to know that it won’t be a repeat of anything they’ve done so far.

The Fratellis are a band that literally everyone should be paying attention to. Sooner or later, one of their songs will be perfectly suited just for you. Each album is an evolution in a continuing story of music so genuine, it’s hard to tell if anyone else out there is trying to keep up with them.

Tonight, and even tomorrow, let “Chelsea Dagger” play on repeat for hours on end. But if you take your finger off of the ‘repeat’ button for even one song, you’ll be glad you did.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and fell in love with the Blackhawks partially because “Chelsea Dagger” was their theme song. He’s followed The Fratellis since 2006 and obsesses over every line of every album, year after year like a zilch.