Review: Jon Fratelli – Bright Night Flowers

Jon Fratelli has been one of my favourite songwriters for over a decade. His sense of electric storytelling, bouncing guitars and sing-a-long choruses have made some of the best Brit pop of the 2000’s. Allegedly recorded several years ago, Bright Night Flowers, Jon’s second solo album, was delayed after the reunion of The Fratellis. Freshly re-recorded, Bright Night Flowers finds its footing in that as much as it’s a continuation of Jon’s knack for storytelling, it is the least like his signature sound out of anything released throughout his career.

You can buy or stream Bright Night Flowers on Apple Music.

Bright Night Flowers is a soft album. Inspired equally from southwestern country and indie piano ballads, the album is a series of slow-burners, heavy on orchestration and slow escalation. On first listen, Bright Night Flowers has a tough time differentiating songs from one another. Violins, twinkling piano keys and Jon’s crooning vocals can sound remarkably similar from track to track. However, Bright Night Flowers is arguably the first album since Jon’s side project, Codeine Velvet Club, that sounds like it is meant to be taken in as a full piece.

Bright Night Flowers is a minor concept album of seeing the follies of being in love from the eyes of someone who is heartbroken, wishing the world around him the best with a cynical tone, such as in the title track (“A thousand Juliets are driving every boy out of his mind / Crying in the rain wishing she was still the first of her kind”). However, reading far too much into it as is my wont, it could potentially be argued that the album follows a loose concept of a heartbroken man who falls in love with a prostitute (“Hold out your hand, take whatever you please / How can you love when you’re down on your knees? / Burn this disguise, wipe those blue eyes”. – “After a While”).

Though it lacks the rock heavy elements from most of Jon’s various projects, Bright Night Flowers still sounds like a Jon Fratelli album. The signature curl of his vocals reflect throughout each song, even if he isn’t stressing his voice for something new. And though this album is slower, it’s not completely foreign. “Crazy Lovers Song” sounds like an acoustic track left off of The Fratellis’ Here We Stand and “Dreams Don’t Remember Your Name” is reminiscent of the style of In Your Own Sweet Time.

Bright Night Flowers isn’t as much a different direction for Jon Fratelli as much as it is a soft building of an idea from track to track. Different listeners will find either jaded love songs with dreamy lyrics, or a disenchanted storyline to follow depending on how much time they’re willing to put into it. Equally relaxing as it is brutally cynic, it’s a welcome return to the mesmerizing storytelling Jon does so well, even if doesn’t incite you to dance.

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 TOO MUCH TELEVISION!!! There is so much to watch, and not enough time to learn how to make wicker baskets.

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Review: The Fratellis – In Your Own Sweet Time

the-fratellis-2018

Jon Fratelli just might be one of the most underappreciated musicians of the last decade. Between side projects like Codeine Velvet Club and his solo work, Jon has given his main venture, The Fratellis, a wealth of sound. A healthy mix of rock, blues and Brit pop mean that each new album is guaranteed to be something new. However, variety doesn’t always guarantee innovation. In Your Own Sweet Time, the band’s new record, feels slightly under-cooked and lacks the ambition that has often elevated The Fratellis to their greatest points.

You can buy In Your Own Sweet Time on Apple Music.

In Your Own Sweet Time is a hodgepodge of sound that leans heavier towards the bluesy side of the band while mixing in some dance-ready disco beats. However, the album seems to lack a core theme outside of coy, ‘kind-of love songs.’ That’s not to say that In Your Own Sweet Time lacks its charm, but it is missing the personality and vigorous storytelling that is often associated with the band.

Drummer Mince Fratelli kills it throughtout the album. His percussion changes from song to song and becomes absurdly hypnotic. The shift from soft beats (“Told You So”) to quick, party drumming (“Advaita Shuffle”) and everything in between (“Indestructible”) is simple but effective. He maintains a steady rhythm and connecting tissue from song to song. Barry Fratelli’s bass levies a strong backing to each song that only reinforces the dance aesthetic of the album (“I’ve Been Blind”).

Jon’s guitar is fantastic, and finds footing somewhere between 80’s pop and classic rock. There are some great solos interspersed across the record (“I’ve Been Blind”), but there also seems to be a lack of ideas. The guitar during “Next Time We Wed” feels like it was plucked right off of the band’s sophomore album, Here We Stand. The lack of variety early on makes songs like “Stand Up Tragedy” and “Told You So” almost sound exactly the same on the first listen.

However, the second half of the album becomes much more interesting, as songs like “I Guess…I Suppose…” and “Indestructible” allow for some experimentation and pure energy. “Laughing Gas” is a stand out on the record, as it sounds like a lost classic from the band. It hits the pop sound that the record seems to have been aiming for.

The biggest sin on In Your Own Sweet Time, however, may be the lyrics. There is little cohesion to the album aside from the fact that each line rhymes and it dabbles in the idea of relationships. It’s perfectly acceptable that an album not try to make a large statement. However, when a line such as that from “Told You So”, as Jon sings, “Oh, I miss the womb / Put me back and make it soon / Where’s my bliss, what’s this sound? / Have you seen my solid ground?” holds just as much meaning as if it were an instrumental part, I would almost prefer the latter. Given the storytelling prowess of the band, it’s disappointing to see that talent put to waste.

“Starcrossed Losers” at least is one of the few songs that shows this talent, though, as it builds a love story from the ground up. “It started out as nothing in the strangest sense / He was never in his right mind, no defense / She waved for his attention, often on repeat / Every time she heard his name and his heartbeat”.

In Your Own Sweet Time is one of the weaker efforts by The Fratellis. It shows the promise of a band this far into their career, but fails to find the cohesion needed to make it one of the group’s most memorable albums. While it adds a disco sound to the bands repertoire, it sounds like more of a gimmick than an integral vision of what The Fratellis could be.

3/5

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 loves The Fratellis more than some family members. He partially got into hockey because “Costello Music” plays when the Blackhawks score. Oh, the future is fun!

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.