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Album Review: The Fratellis – Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied

3 min read

The Fratellis have never quite regained the momentum that first marked their entry onto the scene back in 2006, with festival anthem Chelsea Dagger and acclaimed debut album Costello Music. Since those heady days, The Fratellis have released two more studio albums, but never quite making the same impact. Now returning with their fourth full length release, Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied, the band have once again collaborated with  Costello Music producer Tony Hoffer. But that doesn’t mean they have tried to reinvent the wheel that first sent them hurtling towards fame and success.

The Fratellis - Eyes Wide Tongue TiedThough Jon Fratelli’s gritty vocals are unmistakeable in any guise, his glaswegian accent transmutes to a southern drawl under the americana stylings of Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied. A fairly inexplicable gear change for the indie rockers, this album seems to almost be an ode to the same pull that has tugged at any number of artists. Alex Turner’s transformation to a slick, American style greaser wasn’t the first instance of brits infected by the charm of U.S culture. But unfortunately, Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied is definitely less successful than its predecessors – a tribute rather than the real thing.

Opening track Me And The Devil is just the first of a fair few heavy handed cliches, the title smacks of Mississippi blues complete with the refrain “I’m gonna sell this soul of mine” and saloon style piano. But the real torment of a lost soul is definitely missing from this one. With hoedown style riffs on Thief, borrowed from House Of The Rising Sun, and country style finger-picking and tremolo wails on Impostors (Little By Little), what follows is a series of disappointing imitations.

That isn’t to say that Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied isn’t enjoyable though. The Fratellis can still bash out a great tune with crowd pleasing sing alongs, and the record has a fair number of stomping, good time numbers. But their efforts towards bar room blitz fall a little short; songs like Dogtown and the jarring Rosanna are real low moments where The Fratellis have strayed so far off track they’re nearly unrecognisable. Drinking anthem Too Much Wine is a great rock ’n’ roll listen, but again doesn’t quite hit its mark – maybe better to leave that one to the Flogging Molly’s of the world?

For all that The Fratellis are known for stomping anthems, out of their efforts on Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied one of the strongest songs musically is the swaying ballad Moonshine. Stripped back to simplicity, this one has a laid back, bluesy charm about it that genuinely conjures up sultry southern nights with lazy guitar and walking bass line. Followed by the catchy, rockier Down The Road And Back… Again, it’s unfortunate that they seem to only find their feet towards the end of the album. Recapturing some of their best loved (and best crafted) sounds twelve tracks in, sadly by this point we’ve lost interest.

It seems doubtful that Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied will rekindle the same enthusiasm for The Fratellis that fervently exploded off the back of Chelsea Dagger. And though you have to give them credit for not reverting to type, this is one does little to establish any serious ground musically today.