BEST OF 2011 25. Frankie & The Heartstrings – Hunger

Shameless jangly indie is a good thing. Unfortunately, it’s rarely done in an especially exciting way. With so much mediocrity shlopping away in this genre – oh yes Viva Brother, I am looking, nay, staring at you – when you find a  band who really know what they’re doing, you cling to them dearly. Throw in a charismatic frontman with a distinctive yelp and you’ve sealed the deal. Imagine the Housemartins doing a cover album of Strokes singles and you’ll have some sense of what ‘Hunger’, the debut offering from one of the most adorable indie bands of modern times, actually sounds like.

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The whole record oozes that raw, manic indie sound which has been one of the main forces in popular music’s alleyways and backwaters – with a brief outpouring in the mid-Nineties – for over thirty years now. Yep, it’s more music about love chased, lost and briefly enjoyed, delivered by lads in skinny black trousers. Not quite a state of the nation address this one, then. Unless the state of the nation is fuck it, let’s dance. Which could work, I suppose.

The album’s title track, a reworked version of their first single – angular, frenetic and blessed with charmingly blokey backing vocals – is some statement of intent. ‘Fragile’, the album’s most cerebral moment, is a sprawling, emotive beast which gradually splinters into a raucous finale befitting of the lyric “if you’re going to break down then just break down.”

‘Tender’ continues the great tradition of indie false starts, coming across as achingly twee before erupting into another hyperactive sprint to the finish line. The album is blessed with plenty of “woos” and “woah-woah-woah” backing vocals, delivered free of irony and shame, safe in the knowledge that they simply sound bloody great. ‘Possibilities’ swaggers along at a speed which seemingly threatens imminent collapse, before the guitars are unleashed and some form of regular time signature emerges. You get the impression that they don’t want you to sit there chin-stroking and admiring the chord changes when you could just be leaping around.

The Eighties indie credentials are further enhanced with production from Edwyn Collins, lending it that thin but urgent bounce which made listening to the gorgeous Orange Juice boxset such a delight. To top it all off, they give good quote. Take this classic from drummer Dave Harper, which drew me in: “I could walk 50 yards from here and find 10 musicians who are a million times better than us, but fuck me they’re boring. There’ll be a band in Newcastle one of these days with so many fucking delay pedals you’ll have to stand in Hartlepool to hear them.” Even if the tunes weren’t already so good, you’d have to like them anyway.

March Reviews

Time to mop up my spillages in the review pages of Clash Magazine again. Two of these have already had the full works in recent weeks and another will be soaked in a torrent of hyperbole any day now, but I still rather like bunging these up here.

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ELBOW – ‘Build A Rocket Boys!’ (FICTION)

Safe in the knowledge than an audience awaits, Elbow’s fifth album finds the band doing exactly as they please. Combining the expanses of their debut, the delicate melody of ‘Leaders Of The Free World’ and the beautiful production of ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’, ‘Build A Rocket Boys!’ is a band in full flight. While its subtle charms take time to emerge, let ‘The Birds’ and ‘High Ideals’ take a few laps around your head and the love affair will be back on. Beautifully produced and blessed with Guy Garvey in fine voice, it’s a small but perfectly formed step forward.

I keep meaning to do a big piece on this album but I can’t imagine that anybody who likes Elbow hasn’t already bought it. It’s a gorgeous sounding record – an impression far further enhanced by the majestic double 45rpm vinyl pressing – and I stand by the comment about it needing time. My first few plays were actually slightly disappointing and I was left wondering where the majesty was. It is, rest assured, very much present but it really repays multiple plays and it’s every bit the tremendous follow up we all knew they’d deliver.

Continue reading “March Reviews”

The Just Played Verdict–Frankie & The Heartstrings ‘Hunger’

Shameless jangly indie is a good thing. A charismatic frontman with a distinctive yelp seals the deal. Now that we’ve escaped the new year’s hype wagon of gobshites with bad hair, it’s time for the pure pleasure of a debut album by one of last year’s most promising bunch of slow-burning, guitar-wielding upstarts. Imagine the Housemartins doing a cover album of Strokes singles and you’ll have some sense of what ‘Hunger’ sounds like.

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The whole record oozes that raw, manic indie sound which has been one of the main forces in popular music’s alleyways and backwaters, with a brief outpouring in the mid-Nineties, for over thirty years now. Yep, it’s more music about love chased, lost and briefly enjoyed, delivered by lads in skinny black trousers. Continue reading “The Just Played Verdict–Frankie & The Heartstrings ‘Hunger’”