Release Date: Jun 4, 2013
Record label: Wichita
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival
You don't have to make a classic album to make a good one. The Days Run Away, the second record from Sunderland's Frankie & The Heartstrings is never going to appear on a list beside Sgt Peppers and Nevermind, it's unlikely to be discussed by Andrew Collins and John Robb on Channel 4 clip shows, and it's probably not going to bother the top 10, though it certainly deserves to. That's not the kind of brilliant album - and it IS a brilliant album - this is.
English indie pop act Frankie & the Heartstrings warmed some cold nights with their 2011 debut, Hunger. They got away with some of their blatant Orange Juice worship on that by merit of it being produced by Edwyn Collins, and in the long run, their updated look at classic '80s and '90s indie as more their own sound than overzealous influence-mining. With second album The Days Run Away, Frankie and company are joined by Suede guitarist and producer Bernard Butler for a set of 12 guitar-heavy indie pop janglers that marry '80s hooks with bright-eyed and hopeful melodicism.
It’s a cliché to talk about “second album syndrome”, but for a band like Frankie & The Heartstrings it’s unavoidable. With their 2011 debut they carved a sound so very ‘them’ that its follow up was always going to be tricky; if they’d stuck to their tried and tested formula, they’d have been derided for churning out the same thing again. But, after a string of support slots on huge tours with the likes of Florence And The Machine, Kaiser Chiefs and The Vaccines, they’d be scoring a bit of an own goal if they didn’t.
There’s a certain breed of arch indie rock that belongs peculiarly to the north, one that plays wit, studied weakness and flashy intellectualism against a backdrop of rugged industrial history – your Pulps, your Long Blondes, your Smiths, Pastels and Maximo Parks. Sunderland’s Frankie And The Heartstrings have always been self-identified followers of that creed (first album ‘Hunger’ produced by Edwyn Collins, sleeve features gritty ’70s children, started a bloody cassette singles club), who nevertheless left you with the suspicion that in their haste to embrace outsiderdom, they’d forgotten to pack much in the way of actual brain, stopping only to grab a raised eyebrow and a couple of shonky but loveable tunes. It was the sort of ruse that stood up well under Collins’ production: ramshackle exuberance and heart-in-the-right-place weak vocals are the sort of thing that spark with bristly energy under his touch.
The Days Run Away was produced by Bernard Butler, who hadn't worked with guitar bands for a while before he was brought in by Frankie & the Heartstrings for their second album. Perhaps Butler may have seen, in singer Frankie Francis, the kind of intense frontman with whom he's always gelled – Francis's insistent yelp is certainly the main event here. Without him, the 11 quickfire tracks would have decidedly less personality, though even then there are moments so featureless that you could be listening to any bunch of second-tier janglers from the View to Cast.
Frankie Francis first showed his face in 2011, Heartstrings in tow with debut album ‘Hunger’, the catchier-than-you-want-it-to-be title track proving the highlight (and finding its way on to a fast food TV advert on the way). It was a nice slice of indie pop, and ‘The Days Run Away’ is almost a straightforward sequel to this; a ‘Hunger’ bonus disc, if you will. Not much has changed.