Less an album and more a collection of regurgitated, half-baked ideas, Frankie and The Heartstrings’ Decency represents ‘indie’ rock at its most toothless and neutered. Each track feels emptier than the last, and the band’s endless posturing begins to grate long before the record’s modest running time is up. To say that this is the worst album Frankie and The Heartstrings have turned in doesn’t even come close to conveying just how difficult the work is to listen to. Decency isn’t just a misstep. It’s a disaster.
‘Whimsical’ is quite clearly what Frankie and The Hearstrings were going for, but ‘simpering’ is what they’ve turned in. The boppy, saccharine strains of songs like Balconette and Money begin to irritate almost immediately, with the derivate, Z-grade pop strains of the latter particularly infuriating. Indeed, the experience of listening to Decency is akin to watching twelve back to back hours of the Teletubbies while binge eating candy floss; the ‘cuter’ and ‘sweeter’ the songs get, the more rapidly they inspire nausea.
A large part of the problem is due to the vocals of lead singer Frankie Francis. His insufferably boppy voice is particularly grating on both Save It For Tonight and Someday Anna; hearing him sing lines like ‘someday Anna, one day me’ with a total lack of subtlety or sincerity in his voice brings the tunes crashing straight down, and ruins any potential they had to be interesting, or exciting.
Sonically, Frankie And The Heartstrings pay homage to (read: rip off) more bands than it would be worth listing here, most obviously legendary groups like Belle and Sebastian and Felt. But rather than transposing the more interesting, complex elements of those acts, they instead borrow only the surface elements. In short they don’t even rip off right, and a track like Not For Pleasure sounds like a bottom of the barrel Morrissey impersonator performing a long forgotten Orange Juice B-Side.
Worst of all, Decency does a lot to undermine the group’s successes of the past. Their earlier two albums were nothing if not entertaining, whereas Decency is about as much fun as root canal surgery. It’s as much of a disappointment as one could imagine.