Thursday, September 15, 2016

F Is For...

Songs A to Z

My 26-day challenge to myself -- write about a different band every day, working from A to Z. And just to prove that I do sometimes listen to 21st-century music...

The Fratellis / "Babydoll"

Three reasons to love this band:

1. Their 2006 debut album was called Costello Music, which they say was named after a studio they used to rent in Glasgow, but I stubbornly persist in believing is a tribute to Elvis Costello.

2. All three band members claim that their last name is Fratelli, just like the Ramones claimed that they were all named Ramone.

3.  They're from Glasgow, and every person I've ever met from Glasgow is cool as s**t.

So herewith, this adorable track's from 2007's Here We Stand. (That was the year that they won the Brit Award for Best British Breakthrough Act.) Since then they've followed that up with We Need Medicine (2013) and Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied (2016).

The big single hits off this album were the infectious "Mistress Mabel" and "Look Out Sunshine," but something about the earnest backbeat groove of this peppy little track appeals to me more.

With self-deprecating charm, front man Jon Fratelli said in 2008, "I'ts not the strongest thing I ever wrote lyrically, but the melody sticks. I had it in my head for a long time, so finally gave into it. I thought it must be good if I can't shake it."

Well, he's not wrong about that. Sometimes it IS all about the hooks. 

On the other hand, the lyrics do have a poignant quality. For me, the title is drenched in references to Elia Kazan's Southern Gothic 1956 film Baby Doll, starring Carroll Baker, Karl Malden, and Eli Wallach. (Jon Fratelli slips a similar old movie reference into another track on this album, "Stragglers Moon," with the refrain "can't help it / The girl can't help it.") This girl's innocence, too, is quite clearly up for grabs: "Baby doll / Do you believe they'll catch you when you fall . . . Don't forget / Your minor keys, your half-lit / Cigarette." (I won't bore you now with English-majory things about line breaks and enjambment, but trust me, it's got 'em.) 

The yearning melodic lift of the chorus begs us to believe in her virtue, but the chromatic snarls of the verses point instead to her, um, shall we say pliant nature ("Well, they said you was long gone / I just laughed and said alright/ Bring her home tonight / And I heard you was graciously put on / I just laughed and said good night / Guess it's alright.") What I love is how he keeps on loyally believing in her. "Well they said you burned out, I just laughed / And said come on / She's not burned / She's just gone."

Up until the very end, when he admits: "Everybody knows you well / Except for me, can't you tell." A loss of innocence. 

But how wrong is that, to love and believe? Especially when it's got a good beat and you can dance to it...

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