The Fratellis iTunes Tracks The Fratellis Official Website

The Fratellis

+ {Codeine Velvet Club} + {Jon Fratelli}

Every so often the Scottish city of Glasgow comes up with a bright young indie-rock combo, that promises a lot initially, but fades into pop’s graveyard after only serving up a handful of hits and a couple of decent albums. Although The FRATELLIS might fit into this category, rumours were rife (as of 2013) that the elusive third set would prove the doubters wrong.
Formed in 2005 by the “Fratelli Bros.”, aka Jon Lawler/Fratelli (vocals/guitar), Barry Wallace/Fratelli (bass) and Gordon McRory/Mince Fratelli (drums), the audacious trio – their moniker stemming from the criminal family in The Goonies movie, allegedly! – played their inaugural gig at the local O’Henry’s bar that March. Endorsed by Beat 106’s resident radio DJ, Jim Gellatly, a year down the line The FRATELLIS were picked up by Island splinter imprint, Fallout. Led by the quirky, tongue-twisting ditty, `Creepin Up The Backstairs’ (reminiscent of SUPERGRASS a dozen years back), their eponymous EP was a taster of their potential.
Summer 2006 saw the trio storm the charts on three occasions: first with the Top 20 breakthrough `Henrietta’, next with the Top 5 glam-smash `Chelsea Dagger’, and culminating with a near No.1 parent set, COSTELLO MUSIC {*8}. If fans north of the border needed the Caledonian equivalent of The LIBERTINES and ARCTIC MONKEYS (with the spirit of MARC BOLAN thrown in), then The FRATELLIS fitted the bill; they even covered T. REX’s `Solid Gold Easy Action’ for a B-side. The Brit award-winning album, itself, spawned four major hits in total, counting the ballad-y `Whistle For The Choir’ and fest-fave `Baby Fratelli’; featuring Mince on banjo, the countri-fied `Vince The Loveable Stoner’ (complete with a “Third Man”-like interpolation), plus `Flathead’ and `Everybody Knows You Cried Last Night’, the trio also found they’d an American fanbase by its release date the following March.
With everything primed and ready in time for the festivals, Top 5 sophomore set HERE WE STAND (2008) {*6}, kept the proverbial big balloon-ball bouncing above the hippie heads of fest fans expecting a little more than a sing-a-long. Sadly, with not a signature tune in sight (the ELTON JOHN-esque `Mistress Mabel’, their only attendant Top 30 entry!), “the Fab F-three” relied on witty workouts and jaunty jingles; `Acid Jazz Singer’, `My Friend John’ and `Shameless’, recalling the early BEATLES.
On a sabbatical from the trials and tribulations of a touring pop-rock act, Lawler subsequently teamed up with Caledonian cabaret singer, Lou/Mhairi-Louise Hickey, to form CODEINE VELVET CLUB; introduced incidentally by Lawler’s burlesque-dancing wife. Together with Mick Cooke (of BELLE & SEBASTIAN), trumpeter Derek Watkins, and an orchestra, the duo’s eponymous CODEINE VELVET CLUB (2009) {*6} album, was a hark back to the halcyon days of NANCY SINATRA and LEE HAZLEWOOD – with a further twist of PHIL SPECTOR. Not including their rendition of The STONE ROSES’ `I Am The Resurrection’, the sleaze-addled set of songs dealt with subjects such as `Hollywood’, `Nevada’, `The Black Roses’ and `Vanity Kills’.
Intended only as a one-off grant-fulfilling side-project, Jon chose the solo route again; again because he’d released a DYLAN-esque folk mp3 (“Free Urban Clown”) prior to teaming up with his Frats; prices are rising for this very rare recording every day. Working with producer, Tony Hoffer, the fading star of JON FRATELLI toyed with the “ah woo” retro style of Brill Building America on solo album proper, PSYCHO JUKEBOX (2011) {*5}. If one stuck around for a couple of listens, one might have had to endure a SPRINGSTEEN-via-SPRINGFIELD-type impersonation on `Daddy Won’t Pay Your Bill, and the possibly poignant `The Band Played Just For Me’.
While fans were hoping the future of Scottish retro indie-rock would be served better by way of an all-new, much-improved FRATELLIS (and remember GLASVEGAS had just failed miserably – although only commercially), 2013’s comeback third album WE NEED MEDICINE {*6} was party-time again for Jon and Co. While champagne corks were hardly popping after a brief Top 30 return, the glam bar was probably the best place to get your prescription of the derivative and unadulterated `Halloween Blues’, `Seven Nights Seven Days’, `Whisky Saga’ (very “Creepin’”) and `This Is Not The End Of The World’ – the latter a poignant title for a band legless in the eyes of the sober.
Clawing some commercial credibility through the Californian-cut EYES WIDE, TONGUE TIED (2015) {*7}, The FRATELLIS stepped up to the plate; and the Top 20. Enlisting Costello Music producer Tony Hoffer, Jon and Co sounded awash with a new confidence and swagger, although at times one assumed they’d swallowed several SPRINGSTEEN songs in the process; prime examples `Slow’ (referencing Charles Bukowski), `Desperate Guy’, `Baby Don’t You Lie To Me!’ and the TRAVELING WILBURYS-inflected `Imposters (Little By Little)’. Recalling The BOOMTOWN RATS’ `Never Bite The Hand That Feeds’, `Too Much Wine’ was slick and celebratory, while the MIKE SCOTT-esque `Me And The Devil’ opened the record with a boisterous bang not a whimper.
The rocky road back to chart contention had been a long and laborious one for The FRATELLIS. However with their fifth set, IN YOUR OWN SWEET TIME (2018) {*7}, they’d found the Top 5 once again. America had long lost interest in the quirky glam-funk hooks of Jon and Co, but that mattered not to a band again on the rise. It would also be easy to suggest that the majority of sales figures lay in the central belt of Scotland and, while there was no `Chelsea Dagger’ penetrating the hearts of the listener, there was Weegie swagger for earworms, `Stand Up Tragedy’, `Starcrossed Losers’, `I’ve Been Blind’ and the kick-ass `Advaita Shuffle’.
Finally rescued from the back-burner after several long years in the can, JON FRATELLI re-recorded the all-encompassing BRIGHT NIGHT FLOWERS {*7} for release in February 2019. The record was as much inspired by a melancholy country coda as it was in contemporary chamber music; its commercial clout caught in the crossfire of a fickle audience looking for the next big groovy pop thing. Co-produced by stalwart Stuart McCredie, the sombre songslinger Jon was at his most serene and sentimental on `Serenade In Vain’, `After Awhile’ and `Rolling By’; the exception to the rule was the timeless `Evangeline’.
© MC Strong/MCS Jun2013-Jun2019

Share this Project

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.