Thursday, 16 June 2011

Album review: FRANKIE & THE HEARTSTRINGS - Hunger

Highlights: Photograph, Ungrateful, Fragile, Tender, Want You Back

This is simple. A band influenced by Dexys Midnight Runners with the energy rush of Franz Ferdinand and produced by Edwyn Collins of Orange Juice. That gives a more or less perfect description of Frankie & The Heartstrings’ music and, indeed, their debut album. 
Last year’s promising Ungrateful EP showed a very capable band playing soulful, melodic post-punk music with great retro feel. But with all the influences Frankie & The Heartstrings fell for, Hunger is still full of the kind of identity-lacking personality that is very characteristic of contemporary art. It’s all very self-assured, very insistent. There’s lots of pulsating bass, gutsy and tasteful guitar (including some excellent solos), and soulful, intense singing – all those things that thanks to Collins’ smart production blend into an absolutely charming, good-spirited mix.

The Heartstrings’ signature single “Ungrateful” is particularly noteworthy. Expertly structured, it really is the ideal representation of Hunger: full of heartfelt, dramatic vocals, unforgettable hooks, and the band’s terrific chemistry. But besides the great harder-edged tracks (the opening outburst of “Photograph” or the punkish, jerky “It’s Obvious”), Hunger also delivers great slower, more soulful numbers like the lengthy “Fragile” or the horn-filled “Want You Back” that is especially indebted to the music of Dexys.

No idea what this year will amount to in the end, but this feels like 2011’s strongest debut so far. A real riot of catchy, danceable melodies and intelligence. Even if Hunger does sound like the 80s.


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