Now, half a decade and a couple of side projects later, The Fratellis are back with their third album, We Need Medicine, an 11 song set that has been written, composed, and co-produced by lead singer and guitarist Jon Fratelli. The record takes its cues from classic rock and blues, with flavours of rockabilly occasionally thrown in, and sounds like a logical, albeit delayed, follow-up to their second album as well as Jon’s solo effort, Psycho Jukebox. There is more lyrical and musical variety here as compared to Costello Music, but at the same time, the album isn’t as fun and quirky as their breakthrough first release.
From the country and western tinged album opener ‘Halloween Blues’ to the layered five and a half minute onslaught of closer ‘Until She Saves My Soul’, the record shows shifts in style as the band tries to add different touches and instruments to the sound without losing themselves in the process. The stomping standouts ‘This Old Ghost Town’ and ‘Jeannie Nitro’ prove that the band can still write catchy melodies, while the zesty, banjo-driven ‘Whiskey Saga’ reminds of ‘Creepin’ Up the Backstairs’. The slower ‘Rock N Roll Will Break Your Heart’ impresses with its beautiful, poignant melody. And depending on your level of tolerance for repetitive chants, the title track ‘We Need Medicine’ will either seem anthemic or more than a little irritating.
We Need Medicine makes it quite clear that The Fratellis want to be more than just the band that made Costello Music. But while the album does show signs of ambition, at times it feels overly polished, and there really isn’t anything exactly groundbreaking about this material. The songs don’t sound extremely different or innovative, and the tracks aren’t immediate and memorable enough to buoy this comeback album into the mainstream conscious.
On the whole, We Need Medicine is less infectious and doesn’t hit you with quite the same, consistent level of energy as the set that put them on the map, but it definitely grows on you with every listen. The album revels in its retro sound and doesn’t offer any surprises, but it helps the band display growth and maturity instead of blindly recreating the same sound that initially made them popular.