RIYL: The New Pornographers, Nancy Sinatra, John Barry
Here’s the awful truth about life as a musician: when they’re not recording, touring, shooting a video, or doing press – in other words, when they’re not acting like a musician – they get bored, really quickly. It only took Jon Fratelli, lead singer and guitarist from Scottish trio the Fratellis, a couple days of down time after a lengthy tour commitment to get the itch, and before he knew it, we was recording an entire album of ’60s-styled boy/girl pop with a friend of his wife.
All people should be so productive at the brink of exhaustion; the resulting collaboration, Codeine Velvet Club, is a swinging collection of soundtrack music for an imaginary film. (Think Madonna’s I’m Breathless, only cooler, and ballsier.) Fratelli’s partner, chanteuse-in-the-making Lou Hickey, is like a poor man’s Neko Case, but the imperfections of her voice work in her favor more often than not. (Contrary to what the suits would have you believe, personality matters just as much as technique, if not more.) The vampy “Vanity Kills” slinks like a film noir femme fatale, and the charging “I Would Send You Roses” has an unforgettable, if breathless, chorus. Two showstopping ballads anchor the album’s middle, as “Nevada” and “Reste Avec Moi” could both pass for lost Bacharach compositions. The cheeky bastards even did a period-piece cover of the Stone Roses’ “I Am the Resurrection”; amazingly, that works, too.
Codeine Velvet Club is a most pleasant surprise, especially considering it comes hot on the heels of Fratelli’s underwhelming sophomore effort. There’s a statement in here somewhere about how it took a couple Scots to make a good old-fashioned American pop record, but we’re not really in the mood to point fingers – we’re just glad someone still remembers how it’s done. (Dangerbird 2010)