Abel Tesfaye's dark, twisted album is at odds with the glossy pop world he's been thrust into
Here We Stand
Jeez, there’s a real stench of snobbery about much of the tired criticism of this group. As if The Beatles, Oasis, Blur, even The Libertines, haven’t recorded silly songs for casual music fans to wash the car to. Let’s be clear, The Fratellis aren’t cool, and this album illustrates that, in contrast to the similarly reviled Pigeon Detectives, they’ve stopped trying to be so. If you thought ‘Costello Music’ was shamelessly commercial, you ain’t seen nothing yet, pop-pickers. Every song here is packed with melodies, harmonies, hooks and key changes, all flashing their frilly knickers at Radio 1.
Opener ‘My Friend John’ begins at a Last Shadow Puppets gallop, introduces a Muse-lite riff before hitting a chorus right out of the Stereophonics (warning: reference points in this review may be offensive to those of an indie disposition) cack-book. ‘A Heady Tale’’s boogie piano and folky bent make it part-Chas & Dave, part-Beautiful South, and it somehow doesn’t make you want to gas yourself. When it stands up for a big clap-along, you can almost hear the bingo-wings flapping in memory of the British music halls.
Elsewhere, ‘Shameless’ (maybe named after the TV series that influenced the band’s style), sounds like the theme to a ’70s dramedy with Dennis Waterman, complete with showy T-Rex guitar. “Fuck it,” The Fratellis cry, “we’ll never be The Strokes, so let’s be Mud!” ‘Look Out Sunshine!’, is basically just one big chorus, complete with a rabble-rousing key change for wedding discos. ‘Mistress Mabel’ begins like The Levellers doing Madness and will leave you vomiting uncontrollably, but then they nail a chorus, ramp up the pace, drop out suddenly, dramatically roll back up, then re-nail that chorus. You’ll fall for it like a dog chasing an unthrown stick.
If you look at it as a Grand Guignol of rock cheese, this album is huge fun. You feel The Fratellis are never going to be a truly loved pop institution á la Slade, as their sullen nature seriously undermines their songs’ puppy charm. Nevertheless, this will sell gazillions, and you’ll hate yourself for how much you enjoy it.
The Fratellis - 'Here We Stand' available now from the NME Store.
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