It’s common nowadays for bands who wear their influences on their sleeve to be lambasted by critics for even thinking of having the cheek to do so. Yuck, Chapel Club, The Vaccines and more of their ilk have come under fire of late for peddling a sound that doesn’t so much ring of their predecessors as blatantly copy them, and Sunderland’s Frankie and the Heartstrings could easily be accused of the same thing were it not for the style and effortless pop-mastery that makes up their debut effort, Hunger. This is a collection of songs that are the respectful product of the four-piece’s record collections, rather than an album reliant of and in thrall to them.
With album opener ‘Photograph’, it’s clear this is going to be a record of laddish, sing-a-long harmonies, sweetly addictive riffs and lyrics redolent of loves lost, spurned and yearned for. We’re taken swiftly on to first single proper, and one particular album highlight, ‘Ungrateful’. Frankie’s lyrics take on a touch of the Morrissey’s, delivering cynicism with a backwards glance – “there comes a point when I wish that you were dead” – amidst a wonderfully bouncy guitar riff reminiscent of some of Moz’s ex-band mate Johnny Marr’s finest.
With ‘Fragile’, it’s clear that our Frankie’s had his heart broken more than a fair few times, and his Heartstrings pull at your own heartstrings with this wonderful, almost onomatopoeic ode to a crumbling relationship. If this is the stuff Frankie spits from misery, then girls – keep going at him. Elsewhere, ‘Possibilities’ offers a respite from the heartbreak and sounds like one big cheeky chat-up line, while the title track couples the echo of Joe Jackson with a sing-a-long chorus of “oh”’s that is sure to be a crowd favourite. Standout track ‘Tender’, however, really sums up what this band is about. Opening with an a cappella shout out to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘Tender is the Night’ shows that these Mackem lads don’t take themselves too seriously, and it moves into a hooky, incredibly fun, unashamedly “pop” track that even finds time to fit in a gloriously breathless guitar solo.
With the brilliant Edwyn Collins at the helm of this record it’s hardly a surprise to find that the blood of Orange Juice runs throughout, and that the influence of Josef K and Aztec Camera are also easy to spot. But this is a record that evokes the 1940s and 50s too, whether it be through the black and white working class spirit of the album cover, or the tunes that could sound at home as a soundtrack to Happy Days. As a result, this is a record that sounds familiar, yet remains unlike anything out there at the moment. With Hunger, Frankie and the Heartstrings have produced a debut that creates its own world. Take it to your heart.
From Joe Abbitt.