Sunderland five-piece Frankie & The Heartstrings have a name straight out of an American diner, but a sound that gurgles with all the drama of the British kitchen sink. Produced by Edwyn Collins, their debut album has been much hyped by all the right people and plenty of touring and festival appearances mean that Hunger is going to be greedily received.
Opener Photograph gets things off to an energetic start, its higgledy-piggeldy clatter rock ‘n’ roll guaranteed to have indie discos kicking off. Next up comes the Spandau Ballet aping Ungrateful which adds synths and heartbreak into the mix. Third track Hunger returns to jerky rock while Possibilities goes a little bit ’50s rock ‘n’ roll, a modern day Peggy Sue. Later tracks slow things down to dark, indie balladeering, sounding a bit like a robot writing a love song about XTC. The overall experience is one of indie’s most catchy and life affirming moments being shoehorned together, and while there is nothing cynical about it- these guys genuinely do have passion behind the music they’re making- it does at times feel a little like music by rote.
Yet every song is perfectly crafted indie pop, slickly executed, and combining just the right mix of fragile vocals, spiky guitars and synth work. Getting Collins on board most have been a dream come true, as Orange Juice‘s stamp is deeply ingrained in the band’s sound. However, there’s also plenty of classic indie elements in here – The Smiths and Joy Division of course, plus Dexys Midnight Runners, as well as the great and the good from the world of indie-rock over the last few years in the forms of Good Shoes, Maxïmo Park, a bit of Franz Ferdinand, a pinch of Jack Peñate, some Kaiser Chiefs, The Futureheads and the like.
With The Vaccines on the rise, Frankie & The Heartstrings may have come to the fore at just the right time. Certainly if there’s ever a moment their style of indie rock is going to be gratefully received, it’s going to be now. Any one of these songs has the potential to be a dance floor filler and that’s what they’ve been designed for. There is nothing too original here, nothing big nor clever neither, but then if you like guitars and songs about teenage love you’re going to be well catered for. Overall the feeling is of forgetting everything except singing along with a huge grin on your face. On the strength of this album, Frankie & The Heartstrings might not survive to pass on their wisdom to the class of 2012, but it won’t be for lack of trying. And if they bring a sound that’s a little more themselves next time, there’s every possibility open to them.