Pop Sex Ltd
Ah, Pop! Good pop music is a wonderful thing – it needs big hooks, liveliness and lyrics sufficient to hit a universal chord. And the title track of Frankie & The Heartstrings Decency has just that. But then, so does the one after, Save It For Tonight. Of course, a lot depends on the voice and Frankie Francis’ voice is essential here, urgently rushing things along, particularly on Money (“it’s all about the money, Honey”). A song like Hate Me Like You Used To has a universalism and could be the product of anywhere in the last couple of decades, channelling a wee bit of shoegaze feedback, whilst the vocals lag nicely on cheekily plucked guitar and passionate about the end of passion.
There is a Northern tradition of indie-pop of this sort – Shed Seven, Artic Monkeys, Maximo Park, etc and I have a weakness for it. It usually wears thin after a few years, but doesn’t most pop? Frankie & The Heartstrings are from Sunderland and are busy busy busy. Not only is this their third album but they spend spare time doing things like running cassette singles clubs, opening a record shop in the Sunderland Tourist Office (obviously not being used for much else….). Having a Futurehead in the band doesn’t hurt and guitarist, Ross Millard, might be the source of the extra sharpness. After the much-praised debut, produced with the magic hands of Edward Collins, the second album seemed to suffer from a more mature approach from Bernard Butler. This album sees a fun pop rush, hurtling drums and guitar figures cycling speedily while the hook digs its way, mosquito-like, into the skin.
The horns. Did I mention the horns? They are a clever touch, bringing a punctuation and splash of colour to everything they touch. Berlin Calls has a good bit of spikey Maximo about it and rushes along in a fine and jerky way before Balconette does more or less the same, borrowing a teeny bit of Wedding Present on the way. “Given half a chance, I’ll be messing around” sings Frankie and I believe him. Someday Anna tips its hat to early rock and roll before horns add big colour and the song takes off into a frenzied whirl.
There is a speedy thrashing happiness to a lot of the songs here, that makes for a pop album to love, cherish and abandon, once you have worn the grooves or digits out, for the next shiny thing.