ReviewsMoon Duo: 16.11.12, w/ Emma Thompson
Zulu Winter: 8.05.12
Blood Red Shoes: 1.05.12
The War on Drugs: 01.03.12
St Vincent: 11.11.11
Connan Mockasin: 17.05.11
Frankie and the Heartstrings: 27.04.11
Dan Sartain: 26.04.11
British Sea Power: 2011
Frankie and the Heartstrings are a band from Sunderland who ply their trade in jangly, upbeat numbers, with the occasional dalliance into songs with a slightly rougher edge. Their singer, Frankie (no surprises there, then), enunciates his words in a thickly coated Wearside accent. The band’s songs endure a surfeit of gibberish yet melodic ‘wo-oh-ohs’. Before setting down to write this review, I consciously sought not to draw the obvious comparison between Frankie’s band and the Futureheads. Alack.
Mapping the relative demise of the Futureheads – which culminated in their being dropped by their label and having to set up their own – it is curious to consider the way that Frankie and the Heartstrings have emerged with what is essentially the same musical template. The band have picked up a number of cohorts as they’ve entered the mainstream, not least in the way of 6Music’s Steve Lamacq, and have benefited from the extended airtime afforded to the singles ‘Hunger’ and ‘Ungrateful’. It is clear from their performance that these two songs easily remain their best: they are infectious, colourful, playful and positively memorable.
However, the rest of the set falls disappointingly short of the mark, especially for a band whose recently released debut album was produced by Glasgow’s laudable patron saint of post-punk, Edwyn Collins. The lyrics are, for the most part, rhyme-heavy, and their inherent gaiety soon mutates and becomes nauseatingly sugary. ‘Tender’ is a ham-fisted attempt at something remotely intelligent. Rather than draw on F Scott Fitzgerald’s novel Tender is the Night, it seems to scribble on the text in crayon (‘I’ll read you Tender is the Night / Because I like it by candelight’), before drowning it in a pool of niggling guitar notes. Sadly, the performance seems stagnated; the slower numbers fail to captivate and the quicker, louder ones fail to move out of third gear.
Visually, meanwhile, the band’s members don’t hold together. Throughout the set, Frankie tries his very Sunderland best to invigorate the crowd through (very good) Morrissey impersonations – arms all flailing, lips a-pouting, feet a-scuffling – while the seemingly bored Heartstrings play with the vigour and enthusiasm of an anxious, perhaps Heart-broken, string of kittens. More to this, it would appear the band have all just met at a ‘favourite band’ fancy dress party: the bassist has come as the indiscriminate early-90s Britpop throwback, beavering away in a heavy parka; the second guitarist dons a patterned tank top that might as well have ‘Mumford and Sons’ woven into it – and lone behold, is that Alex Kapronos on the keyboards over there, replete with lovely haircut and skinny jeans/fitted blazer combo?
I’m sorry, Frankie; this time your strings just weren’t quite attuned to the beat of my heart.