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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Review: The Fratellis – The Soul Crush EP

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Ever since their reunion two years ago, The Fratellis have set out to conquer the world in their own way. Yesterday, they quietly released the incredibly short The Soul Crush EP for free through their website. Only three songs long, it’s over as soonerthan you’d expect, but packs the energy expected with any release by the band.

As the teaser for a new album expected sometime next year, the EP cuts straight to the point with the swagger and impressively frantic guitar work that shot the band into popularity in the first place.

With so few songs, it’s actually amazing how much is actually packed into the EP. The opener “They Go Down” sounds like a sibling to fan favorite B-Side “Cigarello”. Jon Fratelli’s guitar work shows just how talented of a musician he is, as he rattles effortlessly between twangy country style guitar lines to crunching powerchords and a crisp rock solo.

Even so, Barry Fratelli’s bass work keeps the speed of the song and never allows itself to be drowned out beneath the guitars. Mince Fratelli’s drumming is impeccable as usual, keeping a strong beat while maintaining a playful simplicity that falls somewhere between party rock and the blues.

“Oh Scarlett” is a soft, simple ballad that bounces with a simple melody equal parts pop and blues. The self titled “Soul Crush” however, is one of the longest songs the band has written, and is an absolute jam. There is a classic rock feel that allows the band members the ability to play and have fun with the song without the ordeal of trying to fit it in with the rest of an album.

Jon’s vocals and lyrics are at the top of his game, matching the melody of the Here We Stand era and the punk/blues scratchiness of We Need Medicine. The lyrics don’t follow any particular theme other than being great pub friendly songs and easy to sing. In “They Go Down”, Jon sings, “Well I was born inside a fire on the curtails of desire, I was orphaned in the flood, I was taken for a lie. My dreams came crashing to the ground, I was defeated by the sound, they go down.”

The Soul Crush EP is a quick, simple and energetic treat. It’s obvious that these songs came after the sessions of their most recent release, We Need Medicine, but the addition of what sounds like the lightest brushing of bluegrass plays perfectly with the band, making The Fratellis’ sound akin to a much more accessible and poppier version of Jack White. The only real issue with the EP is the fact that it is too short to make a lasting impact, but for a free release, it’s a great taste of one of the U.K.’s most talented bands.

4/5

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.

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.