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Posted on August 19th, 2015 (10:00 am) by Heather Starks

One of the most obstinate styles of music that refuses to go quietly into the night is mid '90s Brit-pop. That's not to say there aren't some fantastic bands that came out of that era; Oasis, Blur, Pulp, and The Verve are just a few of the shining beacons that came from across the pond, Union Jack flags waving high. All good things must come to an end however, and whenever a band tries to resurrect something so revered, it usually comes across as a cheap knock-off. The Fratellis may be from Scotland but their music has Brit-pop written all over it. John Lawler (lead vocals, guitar), Barry Wallace (bass), and Gordon Mcrory (drums, backing vocals), have been striving for nine years and four albums to keep the feeling alive, with wildly varying levels of success. It is this most recent album, Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied that may finally convince them to give up the ghost. Bursting at the seams with cheesy lyrics and uninspired music, the Fratellis may have been better off never letting this record see the light of day.

Recording originally began while the Fratellis were on tour in support of their previous album, 2013's We Need Medicine. Frustrated with the fruits of their labor, they dropped the entire project and only two songs survived the purging process. When they decided to give it another shot, they teamed up with producer Tony Hoffer (M83, Depeche Mode) a familiar face from their first full-length album, Costello Music. With Hoffer's encouragement, they examined different avenues in regards to instrumentation as well as altering their approach to creating an album. While you can certainly hear the raucous energy that went into each session, what came out the other side is not nearly as pleasant. Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied is a messy, lazy endeavour to rejuvenate their stalled career, with a slant towards Top 40 contemporary drudge.

We start out with a glimmer of hope by way of a timpani, an underused drum in almost any situation. A piano matches the soft, steady rhythm and together they work towards a crescendo that kicks off the lively six-minute church stomper "Me and the Devil." Lead singer John Fratelli descends into madness, screaming, "Im gonna sell this soul of mine/Im gonna lose my lonely mind for you." It's a surprising first song and it lulls you into a false sense of security moving forward. Things turn country flavored with "Imposters," a twangy, feel good sing along that took me a few listens before I could begrudgingly admit its likeability. I was struck by how vastly different the two songs are, both from each other and in reference to their back catalogue. They don’t fit together for cohesiveness sake, something the entire album struggles with. The last song with any appeal is the rousing "Baby Don’t You Lie To Me." It has all the makings of a classic Fratellis number, a punky, noisy, guitar-driven banger with a big hook and a catchy chorus.

The whole record oozes with desperation to garner the next big hit, with all of them falling far short of any of their previous successes. Have you ever heard a rock song about drinking too much wine? Let me repeat that, a rock song, about imbibing too much wine. Not whiskey, beer, not even Scotch. (Hello, Glasgow) It reeks of a sad attempt to capitalize on the sex, drugs and rock n' roll image that they never actually had.

Apparently not learning a single thing from the dumpster fire of a legal battle that ensued after the release of Robin Thicke and Pharrell's "Blurred Lines," the Fratellis walk the fine line of inspiration and plagiarism with two songs, "Dogtown" and "Rosanna." The first uses a clavinet and a similar, though not identical intro as Stevie Wonder's Superstition. Coming right after "Dogtown," "Rosanna's" opening uses the same drum beat and has a familiar feel to Enigma's Sadness Pt. 1. Both songs are also in a complementary if not identical key as their predecessors. On an album that is already lacking a musical identity, borrowing from someone else's only makes it worse.

The Fratellis were right to scrap this album the first time, and they probably should have buried this version of it as well. It sounds like an unfortunate mixtape slapped together by someone with absolutely no knowledge of how music should flow in the context of a record. The boys who brought us "Chelsea Dagger" have only been able to achieve one hit record in their career and they aren’t going to find the second one here. It's just another disappointing chapter for this once promising trio of "brothers."

Track List:

  1. "Me and the Devil"
  2. "Imposters(Little By Little)"
  3. "Baby Don't You Lie To Me!"
  4. "Desperate Guy"
  5. "Thief"
  6. "Dogtown"
  7. "Rosanna"
  8. "Slow"
  9. "Getting Surreal"
  10. "Too Much Wine"
  11. "Moonshine"
The Fratellis Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied album art
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

45 / 100
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