The Fratellis fifth turn features more eclectic sounds while not losing what got them here in the first place.
For the sake of journalistic ethics, I will start this review with a disclaimer: The Fratellis are my favourite band. I understand that musically they’re not exactly at the cutting edge, their records aren’t going to be generation-defining like Zeppelin, or U2, or Oasis, but I just loved the sound, the big choruses and the risqué lyrics, even though it means I quite often have to explain to people that they do have more songs than just the one that gets played every time your favourite football team scores a goal.
In Your Own Sweet Time is the band’s fifth album, and their third since a hiatus after 2008’s Here We Stand. It is somewhat important to distinguish between the two epochs of Fratellis music, the first two albums, Here We Stand and 2005’s Costello Music followed the formula outlined above, all screaming guitar, smashing drums and choruses that left the throat raw if sung at a gig.
Since the hiatus, during which frontman John Fratelli (née Lawler) produced Codeine Velvet Club with Lou Hickey and his own solo album, The Fratellis have expanded and nuanced their influences, 2013’s We Need Medicine, was a slightly gutless Rock ‘n’ Roll album that produced a couple of decent of tracks, but 2015’s Eyes Wide Tongue Tied saw the band return to form with an album chock full of compulsive hooks and gaudy Americana; if you haven’t listened to the mesmeric ‘Impostors (little by little)’ from said album feel free to check out of this review for a bit and come back later.
In Your Own Sweet Time differs slightly again from previous releases, but it feels an altogether more grown-up record. The themes have never really changed in Lawler’s writing. Love (normally either had and lost or wanted and unobtainable) and relationships feature heavily, given away slightly by the album artwork. Lawler’s writing also continues to verge on the whimsical, with the lyrics to ‘Indestructible’ utterly nonsensical when written down, “Krakatoa, Eiffel Tower, See how she gets busy in the magic hour”.
The standout track on the album might be ‘Sugartown’, with a plastic perfect feel which is rooted in 1950s US pop music, complete with bubble-gum and lollipop lyrics; even if at first listen it provides a shock in terms of its difference to any other track the band have put out. However, some tracks don’t quite land, the bizarre children’s nursery rhyme end to ‘Advaita Shuffle’ is horribly jarring and ‘I Am That’ a weird, bad Stone Roses, haze out feels an extremely weak ending to the album.
The band are still clearly at their best when their old formula is applied. ‘The Next Time We Wed’, the album’s first single, offers a chorus that would have the attention of the biggest stadium, though even here there are disco influences in the back of the track that mark it out from the straight up and down rock of the band’s back catalogue.
For those who have stuck with the band since the start this is probably a more rewarding album than either of the bands last two releases, with enough new stylings mixed in with the old tropes. For those who either aren’t familiar with the band’s previous records, or only know them because of the number of times you’ve belted out ‘Chelsea Dagger’ while smashed and falling out of a club, this album can be marked as potentially their most interesting turn since Costello Music, but it is not the reinvention that their contemporaries like Arctic Monkeys achieved with AM, or The Libertines achieved by Pete Doherty having inexplicably not died. Me though, I’ll listen to it until I know all the words backwards, they’re still my favourites.
In Your Own Sweet Time is out now via Cooking Vinyl