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After much anticipation, The Fratellis’ third studio album We Need Medicine was finally released. After announcing an indefinite hiatus in 2009, fans worried that the Fratellis would be no more. Thus the release of We Need Medicine has been greeted with great fanfare, and I was among the crowd jumping for joy.
I’ll be the first to admit that We Need Medicine was not the album I was expecting from the Fratellis. The slower pace and traditional bluesy, rock n’ roll feel was one that I was just not sure what to make of at first. However, by the time I had listened to the album in its entirety about three times, I conceded to myself that maybe this new sound wasn’t really a negative thing at all. In fact, it’s grown on me exponentially to the point where I have listened to the album about five times through now.
Created by the same band behind the highly successful album Costello Music, which featured the infamous “Chelsea Dagger,” We Need Medicine brings quite a different sound to the table. However, somehow it seems to fit right in with the progression of the band from Costello Music to the almost folky Here We Stand to today. As each album has progressed, the lyrics seem to have grown deeper and the songs wordier. In We Need Medicine the lyrics have strayed from telling solely the fanciful stories of fictional characters to being more autobiographical. Yet Fratellis fans are not to panic; We Need Medicine is still filled with the wit and pep of the Fratellis pre-hiatus.
The album starts off with the somewhat surprising “Halloween Blues.” Though the fun of Fratellis past is rampant in this song, the first few notes sound almost country, and true to the song’s title, reminiscent of the old time blues of clubs of the past. “Halloween Blues” lets the listener know from the start that this album is going to have a few unexpected tunes within.
The third song on the album entitled “She’s Not Gone Yet But She’s Leaving” is truly intoxicating. Catchy but calm, a far cry from the fast paced “Henrietta” on Costello Music the song continues with this new bluesy tone, and with the combination of the sound of the guitar and the style of Jon Fratellis’ vocals in it, it is reminiscent of British superstars Arctic Monkeys. Though quite pleasing to listen to, this song continues the trend of straying from the uber-catchy songs of the past to something different but evocative.
The next song, “Seven Nights Seven Days,” evokes yet another famous act, with Jon Fratellis’ voice echoing that of Bruce Springsteen, belting out the lyrics in more of a yelling voice than a singing one. With almost perturbing lyrics, the bouncing beat contrasts the apparent meaning of the song drastically. Thus the song ends leaving the listener wondering what the it truly means; is it serious, or more sarcastic?
The eighth song on the album “Jeannie Nitro” serves as a not-so-subtle nod to the energy of Costello Music, where fictional characters headline most of the album. The lively song tells the tale of a no-good heartbreaker, painting a fascinating tale, but in the new slower-paced way of We Need Medicine emphasizes the instrumentals more so than in many tracks of the past.
Then comes the moment we’ve all been waiting for, and We Need Medicine appears, the title song of the album, and it is easy to see why it’s featured as such. With its repetitious lyric “we need medicine and we need it now,” it is clearly meant to be an anthem of sorts. Situated towards the end of the album, it is the glue that holds the entire album together. Nestled between upbeat “Jeannie Nitro” and the more subdued “Rock N Roll Will Break Your Heart” which is chockfull of classic lovesick angst, it seems to strike the perfect cord in between the two extremes.
We Need Medicine is a treat, filled with both familiarity and unexpected new sounds. It is more than worth a listen by both the die-hard Fratellis fan and newcomers to their music.