Frankie & The Heartstrings - The Days Run Away (Review)
Thursday 13th June 2013 | James
Occasionally, a band comes along which embodies a deep tradition which embeds itself within a certain culture. Whilst they may not trouble the upper echelons of the UK Chart, Sunderland's Frankie & The Heartstrings provide music which crafts itself around a quintessentially Northern Britishness. Dripping in wit, relevance and charm, the band's debut record Hunger managed to typify a long-standing tradition in British music for sharp blasts of jangly pop which started in the 1980s with seminal Manchester band The Smiths.
Whilst Frankie & The Heartstrings may not have the same eloquence or turn of phrase as all the era-defining British songwriters of years gone by, they do have the ability to make some of the most enjoyable indie rock music in the country today. The band are full of character and this is what makes their latest record, sophomore follow-up The Days Run Away, a heartfelt and loveable piece of work which will pick you up by the coat-tails and carry you forwards in delight.
The whole record is summed up by opener 'I Still Follow You': a sub-three minutes piece of work which bounces along urgently with a romping bassline and a spiky vocal from frontman Frankie Francis. The guitars chime along and battle for superiority as the chorus triggers a soaring, heart-on-the-sleeve vocal reminiscent of Morrissey and Robert Smith. The Days Run Away continues in a similar vein, with 'That Girl, That Scene' showing punk-tinged riffs which have propelled The Vaccines to arena level. Frankie & The Heartstrings do it just as well as the aforementioned band, though, highlighting what a shame it is that the Tynesiders are unlikely to ever play a venue that big.
You get the impression that Frankie & The Heartstrings are unlikely to care about that, though. The Days Run Away is the sound of a band who make music because they love it and have a deep reverence for the histories and traditions of this country's music scene. 'Nothing Our Way' is the sound of Frankie lamenting the title in an acute Morrissey impression before 'Right Noises' deftly merges heartfelt balladry into beat-pop with hand-claps galore.
'Losing A Friend', the longest track on the record despite being only four minutes, is a masterpiece with a change in tempo as Frankie's solitary vocal is backed only by haunting keys. The song is full of emotional weight and is the sound of Frankie lamenting that he “knows he's losing you”. The climax occurs in a flurry of slow snare bashes and steady tambourine claps and leaves a resounding impression on you before 'She Will Say Goodbye' revisits the jangly nature of their debut record before 'First Boy' puts forward the need for Frankie to be “the first boy that you see”.
Where the band really shine, though, is through their lyrical growth. After the humourous 'That Girl, That Scene' lyrics (highlights are “I've become all the things you hated, I go out every night and get you wasted” and “I'm not the type of guy to take it slow, I'm not the type of guy your mum wants you to know”), 'Everybody Looks Better (In The Right Light)' shows Bernard Butler's production brilliance. Butler has not worked with guitar bands for a while now, yet he clearly saw something in Francis. It's easy to see why as the longer The Days Run Away saunters on, the more you fall in love with the affable frontman.
There is the odd bum note ('Invitation' is the type of track that even The Futureheads would deem as unintelligent) but, for the majority, the record shows a real growth from the hit-and-miss Hunger. 'Scratches' is a piece of arena-sized vastness which Elbow could have easily written, before the stripped-back 'Light That Breaks' rounds things off with a collaboration between Francis and Let's Buy Happiness' frontwoman Sarah Hall. The song is, simply put, heart-wrenching and leaves everything else on the record eclipsed with sheer lovelornness and a real sense of tragedy. Mercury Prize nominees Field Music contribute to a bowed string section and, as the track fades out, you realise that Frankie & The Heartstrings have come a long way since their debut single appeared on a Dominos Pizza advert.
Perhaps not boundary-pushing or new, but Frankie & The Heartstrings show the ability for making music which flips from the heartbreaking and haunting to the bright and breezy within a moments' notice. Francis is still the shining point of the band with Smithsian word-play and a wide range of vocal intonation. You get the impression that, the longer the band's career goes on, the more they will offer.
Download: 'Everybody Looks Better (In The Right Light)', 'That Girl, That Scene', 'Light That Breaks'
By James Rodger @jamesdrodger