Album Review: Frankie & The Heartstrings – Decency

Decency

frankie_decency_artwork_541_541Released 6th July 2015

Words: Gary Feeney

After achieving moderate chart success with their 2011 debut album Hunger, Sunderland band Frankie & The Heartstrings disappeared in to relative obscurity despite the release of sophomore offering The Days That Ran Away in 2013. Since then, they’ve focussed their efforts on their Pop Recs record shop in their hometown with intermittent tours but have now returned with a new L.P., Decency. As a big fan of Hunger and in particular the track Ungrateful, which showcased the band’s knack for well-crafted, melodic indie-pop songs and intelligent lyrics, I initially struggled a little bit to get in to The Days That Ran Away quite so much, so it’s perhaps understandable why that album didn’t fare as well as its predecessor. Decency, then, could well be described as a return to form.
Opening with the short, sparse keyboard chords backed by greyhound commentary of the intro track Peterborough Dogs, the album bursts to life with the title track which, at just 1:44, hurtles past almost before you realise it’s there but powered along by an incessant bass-line, it gives you a good idea of what lies ahead. The energy of that track runs into Save It For Tonight, which features a brass section which gives the intro a Northern Soul edge, and also into the rapid-fire vocals of Money which completes a frenetic run of songs that feel, somehow, like a live set – you can easily imagine the band coming on stage and rattling through these four songs – and signals a change in direction for the album.

To that end, perhaps the pivotal track on the album is the wonderfully titled Hate Me Like You Used To, which instantly calls to mind Fragile from Hunger with a reverb-laden guitar line just audible enough to add a haunting edge to Frankie Francis’ vocals before building to a soaring chorus. It’s a tender moment and provides a resting point before the tempo picks up again for the rest of the album which proceeds more in the vein of Hunger than perhaps it did before: on Berlin Calls, for example, the intro features the kind of spikey, Orange Juice-esque guitar lines that were the calling card of the debut album although the harder edge of earlier tracks on  still very much underpin it, whilst Balconette is perhaps the most quintessentially Frankie & the Heartstrings song on offer, right down to an “oh, oh, oh, oh” chorus.
As the album draws to a close, there’s another few songs which sees the band ease back on the tempo a little, such as Just Not In Love which is perhaps the highlight (and my favourite moment) of the album. Whilst not a slow song as such, it doesn’t have the same high-octane rush as The Heartstrings are more accustomed to and with introspective lyrics and one of Francis’ strongest vocal performances, it’s perhaps the band’s most mature, accomplished pieces of music. Another of the more reflective tracks, and another highlight, is the penultimate Knife In My Back, a stripped-back number featuring the acerbic line “I’d rather have a knife in my back than your hand in mine” but the band being who they are, we’re left with a return to the frenetic style that defines much of their music to close with Easy Life closing the album on an up-tempo high.

Whilst Frankie & The Heartstrings’ chance of establishing themselves as a permanent fixture high up the indie food chain has probably been and gone, it seems a real shame that a band who can produce music as catchy and intricate as they can three albums in aren’t celebrated far more than they are. As with Hunger, Decency, is an album that manages to be instantly likeable whilst holding back secrets that you’ll only discover with repeated listening – every time you listen to the album, a different song will stick out and you’ll have a different favourite each time. The band may not be a commercial success, but they keep making entertaining, enjoyable music and you can’t, ultimately, put a price on that.

Listen to Save It For Tonight here:

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Comments
One Response to “Album Review: Frankie & The Heartstrings – Decency”
  1. garyfeeney says:

    Reblogged this on General Smuts.

    Liked by 1 person

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