The bluesy guitar strums that open We Need Medicine instantly send a message to The Fratellis’ fanbase: Don’t expect the same old thing.
And while it’s true this release explores a different sound, one The Fratellis has dabbled in before but never committed to for an entire album, it feels the same—the band hasn’t lost its touch for big, loud, rousing music.
In terms of energy, We Need Medicine is halfway between the fervor of Costello Music (2006) and the more restrained, though still catchy, melodies of Here We Stand (2008), with a distinctive blues influence and the addition of a rock ‘n’roll piano line. The trio from Glasgow sounds positively country.
The Fratellis strays furthest from its old sound on the title track. Jon Fratelli soulfully sings the repeated line, “We need medicine, and we need it now” above a simple drum beat and shakers before the melody kicks in, landing somewhere between blues and folk. In the chorus, an ultra-satisfying sliding guitar (which also makes an appearance on “This Is Not The End Of The World”) fills in the gaps between words, giving the music a rolling texture.
Along with lead single “Seven Nights Seven Days,” “We Need Medicine” is one of the most crowd pleasing tracks on this release, showing that The Fratellis is still in the business of creating hyper-catchy sounds—and it has the repetitive lyrics to prove it.
On the title track, repetition serves to reinforce the folky feel, but on other songs—”She’s Not Gone Yet But She’s Leaving” and “Jeannie Nitro,” for example—the monotonous lyrics speak more to a lack of creativity, or courting mass appeal, than anything else.
Of course, no one listens to The Fratellis for groundbreaking lyrical content. This band is all about fun, high-energy music, which We Need Medicine certainly delivers.
And, it may be unfair to criticize the sing-along nature of the album when the instrumentation is more sophisticated than before, with well-placed guitar and piano lines to elicit that old fashioned, rock ‘n’ roll feeling.
In fact, the band deserves credit for this maturely crafted upgrade to its signature sound. The melody may not be at its usual breakneck pace, but little details show a flair for creating sounds that catch the ear in the most addictive way.
The majority of We Need Medicine is composed of rousing, soulful tracks with bluesy guitar lines and bright piano. It creates the feeling of sitting in a dingy bar where the customers are drinking whiskey, line dancing, and perhaps preparing to fight each other—in the best way possible. This new music will fit right in with The Fratellis’ famously energetic shows.
On the blues-heavy end of the spectrum are tracks like “Halloween Blues” (surprise), “Shotgun Shoes,” and “The Whisky Saga.”
“She’s Not Gone Yet But She’s Leaving” and “This Is Not The End Of The World” have a sort of hypnotically droning sound, and “This Old Ghost Town” and “Jeannie Nitro” have a faster pace that, despite the rock ‘n’ roll approach, feels like the old Fratellis.
While there’s no significant change in pace throughout the album (the songs range from catchy to extremely catchy), “Rock n Roll Will Break Your Heart” is a slow ballad that mellows out the record as the second-to-last track, right before the music kicks into full gear again on “Until She Saves My Soul.”
Fans may be initially surprised by the heavy touch of blues on We Need Medicine, but it shouldn’t take long to adjust. The feel-good, hard partying vibe is still there—it’s just in a shiny new package.
The Fratellis – We Need Medicine tracklist:
- “Halloween Blues”
- “This Old Ghost Town”
- “She’s Not Gone Yet But She’s Leaving”
- “Seven Nights Seven Days”
- “Shotgun Shoes”
- “The Whisky Saga”
- “This Is Not The End Of The World”
- “Jeannie Nitro”
- “We Need Medicine”
- “Rock n Roll Will Break Your Heart”
- “Until She Saves My Soul”