I must firstly admit that I may come from a slightly biased viewpoint whilst writing this, my first review. I have paid willingly to see Frankie & The Heartstrings perform on two occasions and have been a fan of their 50’s tinged, nostalgia-pop from day one. But that does not fail to hinder my viewpoint because, quite simply, it is a superb debut album from the Sunderland band.
Opening song ‘Photograph’ drifts in with woozy summertime vocals, then packs an immediate boost of a riff that would get the feet tapping of even the hippest of hipsters. It immediately sets the stall out for the rest of the album.
The chugging rhythms of ‘Ungrateful’ and ‘Possibilities’ carry on in such a manner, the warm and passionate wails of lead singer Frankie Francis an evident reminder of just how much their music means to the band.
Romantic odes to lovers are plentiful, nods to previous eras and their musical influences are just as abundant. Through the help and guidance of producer, close friend and hero to the band, Edwyn Collins, their beeline for the head of the pop totem-pole is very clear. And in the first single from the album, title track ‘Hunger’, F&THprove they have what it takes to break the top 40 with hard work and good solid tunes (not just a throbbing dance beat and a feature from Rihanna like everybody else).
Frankie & The Heartstrings also turn their hand rather well to fruitless romanticism in stand-out album track ‘Fragile’. The trebly guitar and fervently strained vocals create vivid imagery of having no hope left for the love you put everything into.
Following track and second single, ‘Tender’ is an eclectic mixture of influences; itcaptures the jangly rhythm of classic Orange Juice, nods lyrically towards the work of F Scott Fitzgerald yet brings both up to the speed of modern life on Wearside brilliantly.
‘Want You Back’ is one of the only tracks that passes without leaving much of an impression on its way. Yet the northern charm and passion can’t help but make you want to urge forward such a band.
‘It’s Obvious’ is probably the grittiest of F&TH collection of songs. The firm percussion coupled with the rocky guitar show that the band can break out of their mould and do it successfully too.
‘That Postcard’ continues the album’s pattern and provides a snappy riff and anthemic “woah’s” that conjurer images of festivals crowds bathed in sunshine singing along loud and carefree. It would be a sorry tale if you were able to listen to an album such as this and not be left with a smile upon your face; it’s just that sort of record.
Finally, ‘Don’t Look Surprised’ is the warm-hearted vintage-tinged climax to a fantastically crafted debut album. It builds to a crescendo of earnest lyrics and fantastic instrumentation which seals the album with what you rarely see with modern day albums. A final song which feels like it should be the end, a song that paints a finished picture of Frankie & The Heartstrings.
My only criticism would be that at points, the gleaming pop production of these tracks sometimes washes over the gritty passion of their fantastically energetic live performances which is something I would definitely advise you to do if given the opportunity. Each drum beat, each riff, each wailing vocal are just that bit more amazing live
Every so often, a band comes along that deserves support and praise far superior to that they receive in the mainstream audience. Frankie & The Heartstrings are one of those bands. They are a band of real vigour and desire, a nice, honest band who genuinely merit a lot more credit than is often given. So for those who chose not to take note, you’re missing out on the sound of a new era.
Download: ‘Fragile’ ‘Tender’ ‘Don’t Look Surprised’