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’”

Futuremusic 2010: A Little More Lively

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A new indie band is born every six seconds. The midwife squeezes them all into skinny jeans, combs their hair to make them look like right twats and teaches them how to look at a camera as if they’ve got lemon juice in their right eye. After a quick lesson in rudimentary instrument technique, they are provided with their required reading list and a small selection of ‘classic’ records and sent off to become interesting. And, the majority of these largely tedious arseholes get nowhere. Thank fuck for that, eh? Thankfully, it still seems like the good stuff can rise to the top, even if the people at the top have jizzed all their money away on promoting greatest hits albums by former reality TV show contestants who only had half a dozen hits in the first place and now can’t really afford to do much for new bands.

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Frankie & The Heartstrings have not only risen out of the self-castrating trouser pool, but have recently put out a single of Rough Trade and seem to be drawing attention to themselves rather effectively. I recently posted the A side of that debut 7” as part of the Song Of The Day feature after reading a wonderful interview with them in the NME. I know I shouldn’t really recycle content, but I’d swiped it from that NME interview in the first place, so I don’t think I ever had the moral high ground. It was this comment, 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.” If there’s one thing Frankie & The Heartstrings are not, it’s boring.

From the ‘fuck it, let’s dance’ school of indie pop, they already some splendidly chaotic tunes to their name and I don’t doubt that they are capable of delivering a debut album to cherish. They’re not big but they are clever; Harper’s blog posts are capable of raising a smile from a manically depressed, long-term unemployed undertaker. Their own PopSexLtd imprint awards catalogue numbers to things with almost as much reckless abandon as Factory Records – the latest ‘release’ appears to be a drumstick. You can, however, download odds and sods, enter draws for gig tickets or plead for copies of incredibly rare mixtapes if you’re beady-eyed and a frequent enough visitor.

I would recommend grabbing yourself a copy of their self-released, six track live EP from the arse end of last year which comes in a tote bag with a fanzine, badges, a postcard and, an actual 10” piece of vinyl. It’s chaotic, it’s ramshackle and it’s the most fun I’ve had listening to an early recording of a promising new band since the Arctic Monkeys appeared. And I don’t think I liked them as much as this lot. There’s a bit of Roxy Music in the wavering vocal but also the astute, razor sharp pop sensibilities of Franz Ferdinand at times. Add in a bit of the early 90s navel-gazing, tinny indie ‘sound’ and you’ve really got something worth your attention. These delightfully generous chaps are actually happy giving away their music and if you go to their Myspace you’ll find an email address from which to request some music. It works! If you’re after either the live 10” or the debut single, I wouldn’t hang around: they’ll not be around for long. Unlike the band, I suspect.

2010 on the record

Song Of The Day 13: Frankie & The Heartstrings – Hunger

“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.” So speaks Dave Harper, drummer in Frankie & The Heartstrings. This quote comes from last week’s new music for 2010 issue of the NME. I only read it this morning and I laughed out loud. So rarely do a new band have anything interesting to say in these preview pieces. They’re normally so busy trying to prove how incredibly cool they are that they forget to bolt on their chosen personality for that day. Not so this lot. Harper was also responsible for the glorious sentence, “I hate you Bono, stop clicking your fingers, you tit.” Again, I laughed, so gloriously small scale is the insult. To seal the deal, Pete Gofton, brother of 6music’s lovely morning show host, boldly asserts that, “’Biology’ by Girls Aloud is better than anything in Radiohead’s back catalogue. It’s three choruses bolted together and it never repeats itself. It’s an incredible song. It pisses all over anything on ‘Kid A’.” I may not completely agree with the comparison, but I’ve taken some shit in the past for extolling the virtues of that track and anyone willing to further its cause is alright by me. That’s tomorrow’s song choice sorted.

On top of all of this, they’ve got a bloody marvellous, hook-laden charmer of a single out, along with all sorts of random, catalogue-numbered stuff on their own ‘PopSex’ imprint and a 10” that appears to be all about the packaging still available from select musical emporiums. Anyway, suffice to say, the article sent me scurrying to the internet and I was genuinely excited by what I heard. The hype might well be justified and the interviews are guaranteed to always be worth a read. A quick bit of internet searching will allow you to track down a few of their quality tunes, although their Myspace suggests you should just email them and ask. You may even receive a rather amusing response, as I did. What’s not to love?