Friday, June 15, 2007

“For the Girl” / The Fratellis

I see it as a horse race – the Arctic Monkeys have the lead going into the turn, and the Kaiser Chiefs are coming up hard on the inside . . . but still, I wouldn’t count out this lovable Glaswegian trio. Something’s working right in the UK music scene if they’ve got three young bands turning out stuff this fine.

Like the Ramones, the Fratellis pretend to be brothers by adopting the same last name – Fratelli even sounds like Italian for “brothers.” It’s not clear why they named their debut 2006 album Costello Music – I’d like to believe it’s because they’re fans of Elvis Costello (which they are, but who isn’t?) – but they also claim it refers to a character in the severely underrated film Still Crazy. (If you love rock ‘n’ roll GO RENT THIS MOVIE NOW.) It almost doesn’t matter where the name came from; the point is that these guys are having a blast, dishing up rock ‘n’ roll with all the irreverence it deserves.

I know music isn’t all about catchy tunes, but the catchiness of a tune DOES matter, and the Fratellis’ songs imprinted on my memory immediately -- I felt like I was meeting old friends on the second listen. I hear strains of 60s pop, sea chanties, punk anthems, folk ballads, probably a little Gilbert and Sullivan as well. The sheer melodic invention on this album is amazing.

“For the Girl” sounds deceptively perky, starting off with an upbeat, dancing guitar riff that’s then repeated by a bouncy chorus of “La la la’s.” But as the song’s story unfolds, it’s not perky at all – it’s a portrait of a murky relationship with a pretty nasty female. In some dark, loud, confusing club, our so-called heroine first appears: “No one could hear a word, or tell what the girl was singing / She just must’ve been 16 or 18, or just past caring.” The singer’s sucked into her sphere, almost against his will. “She was into the Stones when I was into the Roses,” he remarks, in vague astonishment (note the wordplay on the Stone Roses, a band I never listened to but were probably HUGE for British kids of this generation).

Our singer and his, er, love interest are tangled up in a neo-punk vibe full of violence (“She was breaking my bones when I was busting her noses” and “Kickings for my sweetheart / Bruises that I just don’t miss”) with drugs involved, and way-too-casual sex (“She was getting me pills when I was into her best friend”). He knows she’s not going to deliver what he needs – as the chorus ominously reminds him, “And she said "I can't love you any more than this!" He knows what kind of a bitch she is; that doesn’t make it any easier to extricate himself.

He knows he’s in over his head, and falling apart – “I was dead by Sunday, half-dead skint just trying to please her” – but that hopped-up tempo and the mocking chirpiness of the “la-la-la’s” give me the idea that he’s on a funhouse ride he can’t escape. He sums it all up in the line, “Young love pleases you easy / Makes you sick in a bad way.” Well, at least he’s got perspective.

The whole album’s full of energetic pop tracks like this, all with a dark underside that sneaks up on you. Give them a listen. Simply put, the Fratellis rock.

For The Girl sample


g12 said...

They took their name from the villains of the classic kids movie The Goonies. Also, they used to record at Costello Studios in Glasgow, that may be the album title origin.

They're OK, but their sound is pretty similiar to every Glasgow band, heavily influenced by the 80s Glasgow scene of Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, Josef K etc. no bad thing, but they're bigger down south than they are here.

Jeff said...

What a great choice for a hot summer Saturday! I appreciate you letting me know about a band I've been curious about for some time.