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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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.

Review: The Fratellis – In Your Own Sweet Time

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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!

Superet: The Best Band You’ve Never Heard Of

It’s something you hear for years, but it appears to be an inevitability: no matter how much you try, it’s just harder to get into newer bands when you get older. It’s something that has had a slow build-up in me for the last few years. There are a crazy amount of up-and-comers that have potential, but at 30 years old, it takes more than teenage angst to catch my attention.

Another inevitability is the feeling that the best albums you’ll ever hear are already behind you. There are some magical works of art that come out every year, but it has been half of a decade since something has shattered my world the way that The Fratellis’ Costello Music did when it forced me to park my car and finish a song because I couldn’t focus on anything else. Nothing has fueled my system with the energy of hearing Green Day’s American Idiot, or truly found my soul like The Wonder Years for so long.

But every now and then, you find something truly amazing.

A month ago, I attended the Chicago show for Dreamcar, the supergroup of AFI’s Davy Havok and the members of No Doubt filling out the rest of the band. It was truly a great show. But what I took away from it, arguably more than anything is that a month later, I am still reliving their opening band’s set, even though I literally only know one of their songs.

Superet is a band I had never heard of before that night. They took the stage as the only opening band, with two keyboards on either side of the stage, and fuzzy haired vocalist Matt Blitzer sporting a tight jacket. From the very start, they shattered my world.

The only way I know how to describe their sound, from memory, is that it was as if Jack White had penned his own version of Costello Music. The energy, the hypnotic percussion and the attitude paid off in ways that would seem hacky for a lesser band. It’s as if the indie rock of 2006 had been maturing like a fine wine, finally exploding with the craze of Hot Hot Heat and the temperament of Jon Fratelli.

No instrument or talent felt wasted. Guitarist Isaac Tamburino jumped instantly from guitar to tambourine to keyboards and back within a single song. Every song was more impressive than the one before it, with one breakdown reminding me of a more frantic rock version of the second half of Motion City Soundtrack’s “Time Turned Fragile”.

It took a long time to realize just how obsessed I was with the band, mostly due to noticing just how often I was Googling their name for a release date of any music. Currently, there is only one single, “Pay It Later”. It was my least favorite of their songs, and my current play count for that song alone is nearing 60 after just a few weeks.

It’s a relief to find a band that reaffirms your love of music from time to time. Age can wear down enthusiasm, but it can never kill it. And I am enthused. I am hunting for any information about an EP, or an LP, or even another single.

I truly believe that a band that is, with one single, represented by the same press company as Green Day and Panic! At the Disco (literally the only information I could find other than a Facebook page), Superet is on the verge of becoming either one of the most talked about under-the-radar bands out there, or one of the biggest.

Check out the band’s new seizure-infused video for “Pay It Later” and get a free download of the song at their site. Just thought you should know.

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 is a creep. Really, what a no good person. Throw apples at his face if you can.

Reflecting On: The Fratellis – Costello Music

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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!

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.

Review: The Fratellis – We Need Medicine

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After a five year hiatus between releases, The Fratellis have finally put out their third album, We Need Medicine. Best known for having their single “Flathead” played during one of Apple’s original commercials for the iPod, the Glastonbury trio have a healthy following revolving around surprisingly punchy British pop. We Need Medicine is an expertly crafted rock album that retains the energy the band is known for while perfecting the sound that their hit or miss sophomore album tried to achieve.

Recently back on the scene, it’s obvious that The Fratellis are still attempting to move away from the sound of their first album, Costello Music. Their sophomoric release made an attempt to find a new sound, but it felt rather disjointed and uneven. However, taking a few years to work on solo and side projects appears to have been what the group needed to get their third attempt right.

We Need Medicine jumps back into the game as a healthy mix of the witty and unique lyrics that helped make Costello Music so memorable and the grungy Brit pop they’ve been trying to achieve. The result is something that feels organic and the natural progression that the band should’ve seen five years ago.

“Halloween Blues” opens the album off with a bluesy rock song complete with saxophone solo and jangly ragtime piano that sounds like a fuller version of one of the White Stripes’ poppier songs.  “Whiskey Saga” harkens back to the original sound of the band played out perfectly with whipping guitars and southern-style bounce. “Rock N Roll Will Break Your Heart” is a soft jam near the end that helps things come to a close with a tight pop ballad with an incredibly simple, but catchy chorus.

The Fratellis found their mark on this album with a series of solid rock songs filled with piano and background instruments, but retains the fanatic writing structure that put them on the map in the first place. While it isn’t perfect, We Need Medicine is among the best part of their discography with songs that practically beg to be played live.

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 yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.