The Fratellis hit the alternative rock scene running back in 2006 with the album Costello Music, which critics and common people alike received positively. What it lacked in creativity, it more than made up for in quality hooks and unbridled energy. The album rose to fame when the song “Flathead” was featured on the iconic dancing-silhouette iPod commercials. The commercial and the song were a match made in heaven; “Flathead” is the kind of song that orders your limbs to move despite any reason to do otherwise.
For the listeners who delved further into The Fratellis catalogue, “Chelsea Dagger” is a jam by any standard, and “Whistle for the Choir” has the kind of chorus that sounds familiar upon first listen. The band’s second album, Here We Stand, failed to capitalize on the notoriety of Costello Music and was a critical and commercial bust. After this disappointment, The Fratellis went on an extended hiatus before finally reuniting and composing We Need Medicine.
In many ways, We Need Medicine is a make-or-break album for The Fratellis. The door to jump into the vein of popular appeal may be closed, but The Fratellis still have an opportunity to regain the trust of the many who were enthralled by Costello Music.
Unfortunately, this album fell way short of expectations. The album starts off auspiciously with “Halloween Blues,” which is exactly as its name describes: a straight-up blues track. The chorus is quintessential Fratellis, and the bridge is probably the high point of the album: a drum solo joined by a bass riff and an animated saxophone solo. But what should be a semi-solid start to the album ends up being the highlight, and it only goes down from there.
Next up is “This Old Ghost Town,” which wastes fairly fun verses with a riff that sounds like it was stolen from the intro of an outdated sitcom. The third track, “She’s Not Gone Yet (But She’s Leaving)” is a poor imitation of the Arctic Monkeys, trying to exchange their goofiness for a bad-boy vibe that just doesn’t mesh. However, perhaps no song describes the futility of the album quite like the title track, in which The Fratellis’ enthusiasm fails to cover up a redundant and uninspiring melody.
As a whole, this album is a disappointment for anybody who listened to Costello Music. The energy is still there, but the creativity of arrangement and melody are not. Quite frankly, I think The Fratellis have completely run out of steam, something that happens naturally for any human composer. Instead of lamenting the downfall of The Fratellis, go back and give Costello Music a listen. The Fratellis may be “one for the dagger,” but in Costello Music I believe.