Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied
Tongue-tied – a word that generally implies the inability to express oneself, be it through some physical or psychosocial limitation. With a title like Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied, and a reference to “voice of restraint” on the track, “Dogtown,” one could easily summarize this fourth album from Glasgow brothers, The Fratellis. The guitar riffs are way too stiff and the harmonies way too tight on beat. The synth tracks on many of the songs sound tawdry and cheap. It’s especially notable on “Getting Surreal” where that Casio-keyboard sounding solo is just horrendous.
On the bright side, there are some songs that I have hope for in liking only because I am imagining the potential of how much better they’ll sound live and unshackled from the album’s over-production. “Thief” is the breakaway track with the really catchy vocal lick that has a bit of Blur to it. It’s maybe as close to the catchiness of “Chelsea Dagger” as you’ll get on this album. Listen to “Impostors,” an easy-listening rockabilly jaunt, even if the solo acoustic version by Jon Fratelli (on their website thefratellis.com/site/imposters-little-by-little-live-acoustic-video) blows this album version away by orders of magnitude. And “Slow” shows another glimmer a wonderfully emotive song with a swoon factor, even if it’s bound for YA rom-com movie soundtrack…you know the scene – the one during that musical interlude where an emotionally distraught couple is off on their own reflecting in a city park or by the beach after the 5-minute break-up that is destined for the happy reunion before end-scene and roll credits? While it sounds a bit campy, the song works.
It’s a real shame for anyone new to The Fratellis to base their impressions on listening to this album because this band is chock-full of musical talent. They’re incredibly popular overseas for their live show, consistently delivering fun rock-pop songs that have maintained a faithful fan-base for several years now. So there…I’m blaming the producer, Tony Hoffer, for not realizing that The Fratellis shine best when you just keep them musically stripped down, loose, and preferably recorded live.