Reflecting On: The Fratellis – Costello Music

the_fratellis

Ten years ago, the iPod helped launch the career of The Fratellis. Lead single “Flathead” was played against the vibrant commercial featuring flashing colours and black silhouettes of hipsters dancing. The song was hypnotic, to the point that I found out the U.S. release date of their debut album, Costello Music and counted down the days until I could hear more music from the band. I had hopes that it wouldn’t be a one-hit wonder album.

What I didn’t expect was that 10 years later, I would still consider it one of the top five albums that I think everyone should own and listen to.

Costello Music is simply a work of art. It is Britpop gone full-tilt. The songs cover the spectrum of genre, punk rock, pop, acoustic ballads, blues and the type of rock that is only inspired by the sex and florescent light of British pubs. Each song sounds completely unique on the album, but never out of place. The energy crafted into each song is on a level only a band like Green Day can accomplish. The guitars are frantic, the bass dances with a playful carnival stride, and the drumming beautifully keeps a manic tempo. For a band consisting of only three members, they make a hell of a lot of noise.

But punk rock can only do so much for a band. What sets it apart is the flourish. This is music you can drink to as much as you dance. Every little thing provides a unique binding that sets the song apart. “Henrietta” features a balto saxophone in lieu of a traditional bass guitar, as well as a vocal solo of the band shouting, “wah wah wah waah” amidst the tepid growls of horny cats. “Whistle for the Choir” sets a mandolin solo between bouts of souldful acoustic guitar. Fan-favorite “Chelsea Dagger” makes what I have heard described as “the dead-man’s chant” the anchor point for the song, so much so that it’s what an arena full of fans chant each time the Chicago Blackhawks score a goal. “The Gutterati?” features a heavy harmonica solo as prominently as it does the raw guitar, and as the song ends after a frantic two and a half minutes of loud guitar and tongue-twister inducing speed choruses, one of the band’s members casually say, “I hate your fucking lyrics”.

What makes the songs endearing, though, is the storytelling. As the rock scene was reinventing itself in the mid-2000’s, The Fratellis didn’t sing about depression or girls – they told stories. There were characters and tales of infidelity. Everyone in the album was born with a pint in their hand. The Chelsea mentioned in “Chelsea Dagger” is a stripper who comes up again in the song “Ol’ Black and Blue Eyes” as Jon Fratelli sings, “And Chelsea says she’s got somewhere to go / And if she does she’s gettin’ there slow / And I would help her out but I’ve got some place to be”.

“For the Girl” is a jangling punk song about falling in love with a girl at a concert. The verse and chorus move at a break-neck pace, backed with “la la las” and a sliding guitar. The song features a setting and paints the scene perfectly for the whirlwind romance of bad ideas as Jon sings, “Well she said I know but I just can’t tell everything you’ve just been saying / Lucy was there as well in the dark, the kids in the band were playing / No one can hear a word or tell what the girl was singing / She must have been 16 or 18 or just past caring”.

“Got Ma Nuts From a Hippie” is perhaps the single best song ever written about drug use. It’s sleazy, angsty, paranoid and ends with the main character not sure what is happening until he wakes from his stupor to find himself in the back of a van with a girl he met at a pub. “I listened with my ears but I couldn’t hear what she was saying / And I guess she talked with her mind, but I didn’t want to seem too unkind so I just laughed / And kept my eyes peeled to the door, wondering what I was there for / But it’s alright…I got my nuts from a hippie in a camper van on Saturday night”.

The album is a gritty tale of drunken nights out, looking for romance and finding it in strippers. The songs are a series of short stories, but none fall the way you would expect. There is never a happy ending, there is never a cliché version of romance. The characters stumble through the streets, hate the music they’re listening to in pubs, and just want to get laid. Like the songs themselves, they’re full of energy and not quite sure what to do with it. But it’s that uncertainty that makes the songs so real and liveable. You can picture each one, where it takes place, and the characters talking to each other as another round of pints line the table around them.

Costello Music is an album unlike any other. It’s a story of young Englishmen trying to figure themselves out in a world they can barely stand up straight in. Their stories don’t end perfectly, but they end the way they should – in utter, magical chaos.

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 has listened to Costello Music almost weekly for ten years. That is just absurd. Also, the band changes tempo when playing live to make the songs bluesier sometimes. How neat!

Review: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Chasing Yesterday

Noel-Gallagher

The thing about Noel Gallagher is that his songwriting sounds timeless. As one of the people responsible for crafting Britpop, his songs consistently sound as though they’ve always been around, and we’re just rediscovering them when each album releases. As such, his newest effort, Chasing Yesterday, sounds like classic Noel, whether that is for better or worse.

Gallagher’s original solo album, the self-titled Noel Gallagher and His High Flying Birds, sounded outside of most everything in the discography of his past band, a little outfit known as Oasis. His signature guitar sound was mostly ousted in favor of softer acoustic-centered pop and an intricate mixture of violins and other odd instruments. Chasing Yesterday aptly marks a return to form with heavy guitar and an Oasis-style swagger. The softer songs are there, but they’re few and far between.

This doesn’t sound like the second in a line of solo albums as much as it does a series of songs that could’ve been pulled from any point in Oasis’ career. While it’s enough to sound like we’ve heard it before, the good news is that it reaffirms how good of a writer Gallagher is.

Chasing Yesterday fixes the problem that I had with High Flying Birds; it was too soft for someone considered to be one of the world’s biggest rock stars. There is an energy here that has been sorely missed since the breakup of Oasis. It’s reassuring to hear him sound comfortable not having to distinguish himself away from his old band as he did on High Flying Birds, and reinforces how much he actually wrote for Oasis. Also, the deluxe version’s extra tracks feel like an absolute must have. How some of them were cut from the actual portion of the album, I’ll never understand.

If you’ve ever heard an Oasis or Noel Gallagher song before, you know what to expect; poppy guitars rattling intimately over a pulsing bass and crackling drums. There is a little something for everyone with a diverse style of music, whether it be relaxed blues (“Riverman”), a semi-electronic song backed by fuzzy guitars (“In the Heat of the Moment”), the softer pop songs that tamper with stringed instruments and keyboards (“The Girl With X-Ray Eyes”) or genuine rock songs (“Lock All the Doors”). Each instrument is given its moment to rise to the occasion and take command.

I think it’s easy to say that Chasing Yesterday refers to and focuses on the music, as the lyrics can be fairly random. The songs are catchy and designed to easily be sung along to, but there is an inconsistency with them that doesn’t sound connected. “The Girl With X-Ray Eyes” has Noel singing, ‘So she took me by the hand, we followed clues left in the sand / As she swallowed space and time we gathered pearls and swine / She shot me to the sun like a bullet from a gun”. In the context of the song, it sounds wonderful but isolated it just feels random.

If there is a theme lyrically to Chasing Yesterday, it’s the idea of trying to live up to the legendary songwriter that his fans expect him to be. “You Know We Can’t Go Back” sounds like a near sequel to the Oasis song “Fade Away”, both musically and thematically. Where the latter was a song about losing the dreams that you grew up wanting, “We Can’t Go back” has Noel singing, “Gone are the days and the dreams we screamed out loud / With my heart in my mouth / I couldn’t tell you what just hit me”.

Gallagher also touches on the subject of trying to recapture the glory of his most famous songs, most of which are 20 years old at this point, despite the numerous albums released since then. In “The Dying Light”, Gallagher sings, “I keep on running but I can’t get to the mountain / Behind me lie the years that I’ve misspent / And I’ve been sinking like a flower in the fountain” before breaking into a chorus of, “And I was told that the streets were paved with gold there’d be no time / For getting old when we were young”. The lyrics carry an even heavier weight over waves of a crisp bass line and the clamor of drumming that sounds like the harsh patter of rain drops.

It’s hard for me not to recommend Chasing Yesterday to anyone. It reinforces the greatest aspects of what makes Noel Gallagher such a strong songwriter and adds a necessary energy to his solo effort. The problem is, it’s nothing we haven’t heard before and makes me miss quieter somber sound of the original High Flying Birds. That said, the album is exactly what I want when Noel Gallagher releases an album and adds to a career of incredible work.

3.5/5

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 has loved Noel Gallagher for as long as he can remember. In fact, he knew about Noel Gallagher and his music before Paul McCartney and John Lennon and their Beatles music. What are the chances?