The Fratellis, an unrelated trio from Glasgow who all use the same surname, Ramones-style, made a couple of dubious but non-fatal decisions regarding their debut album. First, they recorded it in L.A. with producer Tony Hoffer, who helped them come up with a fair approximation of a previous studio client of his, Supergrass, cut with some of the Libertines’ post-glam raucousness and the Arctic Monkeys’ gimlet-eyed chop (“Got Ma Nuts From a Hippy”). Then they gave it a horrible title and cover. Nonetheless, the band here is not without its charms, notably delicious verbosity (“For the Girl”), energy and a touch of punk ferocity (“The Gutterati?”), respect for the unpretentious jolly-up of music hall tradition (“Chelsea Dagger,” “Doginabag” and “Baby Fratelli”), which gives the album its strongest connection to nostalgia and the early ‘Grass), a dollop of noise and a generally decent melodic sense. The mock country tune (“Vince the Lovable Stoner”) is crap but it does allow the possibility of the Fratellis growing up to become the Faces. Costello Music never reaches greatness, but it’s not a bad place to start.
That said, Here We Stand is a wonderful place to wind up. (Best to ignore this hopeless 2008 quote from Roger Daltrey, featured on the band’s website: “If Scotland had produced the Who, we would have been called the Fratellis.”) A year on the music industry’s gerbil wheel straightened the band’s collective head right up. Go figure. Surging with the cockiness of success rather than youth, the threesome produced themselves in Glasgow, replacing the debut’s harsh edge with thickly layered instrumental depth. The songs are likewise better, replacing overeager brittleness with sharp comments and stinging observations, not all of which are aimed at others: “I’m a cynical cunt and I’m much too lazy to change.” How’s that for a line in a pop song, especially such a killer of catchiness as “Look Out Sunshine!”? Best of all, the ancient artists summoned up by these not-quite-30-year-olds owe nothing to current fashion or Scottish tradition. “Mistress Mabel” is a banging great single, stylistically suspended somewhere over the ’70s. “Baby Doll” kind of does Roy Wood’s notion of ’50s rock, while “Lupe Brown” very nearly quotes ELO’s “Showdown.” “A Heady Tale” crosses Elton John and Bob Dylan and ends up in a raucous breakdown (the verses of “Tell Me a Lie” also owe a debt to Dylan). “Shameless” is a shameless recreation of the sort of muscular ballads Slade used to do, but it works because no one else has tried it in so long. “Stragglers Moon” starts off quoting Little Richard’s “The Girl Can’t Help It” and then hits on another corner of the Slade pop songbook, more or less lifting a bass part in the process. Throughout, the joyfulness and invention, a marvel of pop craft, make Here We Stand hit the spot.