Ramshackle rock music long on fun and short on complexity.
It’s hard to care too much when a band that’s been variating on the same handful of themes for over a decade puts out new music, but when they’re as charming as The Fratellis, the prospect is more appealing. Sure, there’s not much new in their world on the latest album, In Your Own Sweet Time, but it’s still a reliably enjoyable set of tunes.
The ebullient three piece from Scotland continue to make ramshackle rock music long on fun and short on complexity, but for their newest outing, they’ve chosen to go all in on big, hooky ballads while coloring in the details of their usual sound with off-kilter flourishes. Some of those new textures sound fantastic, like the orchestral background on “Starcrossed Lovers,” while others sound out of place, like the Hindu influences on “Advaita Shuffle.” They’re still a straightforward band making brisk jams about romance, nightlife and other stock youth culture subject matter, but they’re leaning into the groove more heavily on this record.
The tracks don’t move at the same breathless pace that’s been a constant for the band since “Flathead” first graced an iPod commercial. Instead, they’re a little more measured and danceable, without losing too much of the raucous tone that’s been a staple of their sound for ages. This is a welcome change of pace, except for the fact that this new pace is largely consistent across the length of the LP. What that means is that, on a track-by-track basis, the new songs are a blast, but the act of actually listening to the entire album makes them feel repetitive and less special.
The A sides are all crowd pleasers, from the defiant strut of opening track “Stand Up Tragedy” to the ‘70s swagger of big, hippie-feeling ballad “Sugartown,” a song that sounds like something Scooby, Shaggy and the gang might run from ghosts to. Everything bounces along with a T. Rex-y stride, bright and buzzing with pure rock energy tethered to Jon Fratelli’s occasionally effective lyricism.
A song like “Next Time We Wed” pairs memorable melodies to his usual flare for clever phrasing and winking wordplay, but later tracks name-checking the theory of relativity or awkwardly quoting “She’ll Be Comin Round The Mountain” stretch this well-worn formula to near parody. That goes double for opening up “Told You So” with “Oh, I miss the womb..” The aforementioned “Starcrossed Lovers,” with a hook ostensibly about Romeo and Juliet, but verses that reference Adam and Eve and other pairings, is the most verbally dexterous, and shows off Jon’s vocal range the best.
Bleeding into “Sugartown,” the two tracks paint a picture of a band finding a new niche, a band confident in its own abilities and pivoting into a more exciting take on its typical house style, but the rest of the album never quite catches up. It’s got some replayable songs and more hits than misses, but it doesn’t rise to the occasion so much as stay the course. But it’s hard to complain when the ride is this fun.