Published on July 28th, 2011 | by JJ1
First Impressions: Jon Fratelli- Psycho Jukebox
When I was a kid, my father infused me with the love of basic rock and roll. It seems he was always playing Creedence Clearwater Revival, Duane Eddie, or any of the Sun Records gang. In fact, I remember my family going to the Sun Records studio, and it felt like going into an ancient cathedral, some kind of hallowed ground where important things happened. I possess a deep love for all things set to a 4/4 beat.
A few years ago, I first heard The Fratellis on the soundtrack to Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz. I had been thinking there had been no good rock bands to come along in a while. There was a lot of good music being made, but the traditions that had been laid down by Elvis and The Beatles had been ignored for styles that, while interesting, didn’t evoke the same need to tap my feet that that I feel in the presence of a simple rock song. The Fratellis made me tap my feet, and I have been a fan ever since.
They, sadly, have broken up but Jon Fratelli is still producing fantastic tunes. The 2009 album he released as part of Codeine Velvet Club was a fun mix of rock and cabaret that produced an amazingly listenable record. Now Jon is solo, and I have very high hopes for this new album.
Thanks to the internet and HMV ( a music shop we do not have in the states) I have received the “Exclusive Scottish Edition” before the album has been released in the U.S. Let’s give it a listen, shall we?
Track 1) Tell Me Honey–
Feels like a good start. Nice simple guitar work with a very hooky chorus. The kind of song you can sing parts of before it is even over. While not as giddy as some stuff he did with the Fratellis, it feels like the next logical step of a musician moving toward growth. Nice first track.
Track 2) Daddy Won’t Pay Your Bill–
Surf drums! Always a rousing start. Actually, this feels a bit like a 50’s song. Twangy guitars and very nice timing on the vocals. This is a crowd pleaser. I am impressed with the almost timeless nature of this tune, I can see me liking this song a lot.
(Man, these songs are short. It is going to be a speedy review process!)
Track 3) Santo Domingo–
This is one of four tracks off this album he already made available to fans by either video or download. So I do admit, I knew I liked a fair part of this record before I ordered it. This song is just freaking brilliant. The verse is some very unique songwriting. It reeks of Fratilli’s style, and I have to admit, it really works for me. I am grinning and tapping my foot as I type.
Track 4) Rhythm Doesn’t Make You A Dancer–
Again, this song was made available and I have been listening to it for about a month now. I LOVE this song and have even used it as the ending to an episode of Mars Needs recently. It just is a great rock and roll song. If you have to fight singing and dancing to a song while listening to it, then it serves it’s purpose. This one does that in spades.
Track 5) The Band Played Just For Me–
This track has a bit of an arena “ballad” feel to it. Not as hooky and does not draw me in quite as fully. Not a bad track, but it almost feels a bit out of place. I think I need a bit more time to digest this one. It might just be a case of odd placement on the record, but it didn’t flow out of the rest of the tracks. Listenable for sure, but not as dazzling as earlier tracks.
Track 6) Magic and Mayhem–
And we are back to pounding drums! I like the piano that opens this song. It almost sounds a bit out of tune, not completely, but a bit off. Very unique musical phrasing again. I am impressed with the production on this track. It is almost too busy, but it stops just shy of falling apart. Foot is tapping again, all is well.
Track 7) She’s My Shaker–
Opens with a very 70’s glam rock feel. Could be a T-Rex song, interesting. It seems to keeping that glam-y feel throughout. Nice addition to the record. In fact the drums call to mind XTC’s Sgt. Rock (is going to help me) which is also on the Hot Fuzz soundtrack. I like it, and it brings to mind Edgar Wright, which is never a bad thing!
Track 8) Caveman–
Feels like a ballad from the 50’s and fits the album better than the last ballad. The drums remind me of I Want You Around by the Ramones. They are one of the best bands who ever stepped into a recording studio, the comparison is favorable. Heavy reverb, but I feel that is the style of this disc. Very nice.
Track 9) Baby We’re Refugees–
He just released the single to this two weeks ago. My girlfriend and I listened to it, and immediately ordered the record. Needless to say, I like the track. Very catchy, in fact, I think that it is near impossible to hear it and not have it in your head for hours. The “Carry me home” refrain is like a happy musical virus and it is hard to shake. Great song.
Track 10) Oh Shangri La–
Getting a bit of an E.L.O. feel off this. Strong harmonies that are almost background. Fratelli’s voice is up front and center, but you can tell that he is doing very complicated tracks behind the main vocals. A very full sound that really makes the track sound big. More twangy guitar and the kind of reverb that sounds like he is recording in a large room. Not as catchy as some of the tracks but very nice.
Track 11) Give Me My Heart Back McGuire–
Very Roy Orbison feel to the guitar on this one. This whole album seems to be looking farther back for influence and it is serving him well. He seems to be keeping his style as well as adding bits of 50’s musicians that compliment his work. The liner notes list Fratelli as the main guitarist, but I have not heard him play this style before. I am impressed.
Track 12) Sometimes You Just Can’t Win–
This is the first track I heard off this album. He sent a demo out to his fans via e-mail link. The studio track is more full, whereas the demo was just a wistful track with just Fratelli and his piano. He has added a whole band, impressive. It just goes to show how flexible a good song can be. I never thought of this as a rock song, rather it was more of a bluesy lament. I really like this. One heck of a closer to a very impressive album.
So if you are to buy the “Scottish Exclusive” that I did, you will have four live tracks Daddy Won’t Pay Your Bills, Tell Me Honey, Santo Domingo, and Baby We’re Refugees all recorded in Glasgow. As this is not the mass market edition I won’t include these in the column, but know I am listening right now and I am liking the live tracks just as much as I liked their studio counterparts.
There you have it. I love this album. Only one track didn’t really grab me upon first listen, and even it was not a bad track. He rewarded my high hopes, perhaps even exceed them. Fratelli has kept his tradition of catchy, sing out loud, and dance around your living room rock and roll, while adding hints of the past. I highly recommend this album, and let’ spend the rest of the summer rocking out!