Back in the now-inconceivable, indie rock-dominated mid noughties, The Fratellis' no-nonsense approach and raucous live shows earned them quite a reputation. But their popularity skyrocketed after the release of the inescapable chart smash 'Chelsea Dagger'. Not many bands made it out of that exciting but brief period in British music, and when the Scottish trio announced an indefinite hiatus in 2009, many thought that they'd become yet another casualty.
Their return, 2013's much maligned 'We Need Medicine', was even less convincing and felt like a matter of time before the band imploded. The biggest problem, despite being almost utterly abhorrent, was the album's complete lack of progression musically which is what makes 'Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied' - their fourth release - a pleasant surprise. It may have taken almost a decade, but The Fratellis have finally matured into a slightly more refined and sophisticated beast.
Opening with something of a curveball, 'Me And The Devil's unnerving and cinematic intro unfurls into an ominous piano line before Jon Fratelli declares, "I'm gonna sell this soul of mine!" It's an unexpected highlight but the rest of the material doesn't take quite as many risks. 'Imposters (Little By Little)' and 'Desperate Guy' are melodically rich, country pop shuffles, while hazy ballad 'Slow' showcases maturity and depth the band have thus far lacked.
This sense of rejuvenation is somewhat stunted by the inclusion of some Fratellis standards. The results range from the exhilarating 'Baby Don't You Lie To Me!' to the tediously dull plod of 'Rosanna'. Then there's 'Dogtown', less of a song and more a torrid carousel of musical clichés, rehashed and sounding horribly overwrought. Just darn right, offensively bad. It doesn't help that closer Moonshine is pretty much unlistenable either.
Mostly though, 'Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied' is a success. The changes aren't revolutionary by any means, but The Fratellis have managed to subvert expectations with some subtle but effective tweaks to their sound. It's the leanest collection of songs the band have produced since their debut, while retaining the charm and vitality that made them so likeable in the first place.
Words: Luke Winstanley
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