With a name that sounds like they should have been the house band in Happy Days and a foppish frontman with a James Dean-style quiff, Sunderland-based quintet Frankie & the Heartstrings may seem like a long-lost relic from the '50s, but it's the kitchen-sink indie pop of the '80s that defines their debut album, Hunger. Indeed, only the Scott Walker-referencing skiffle of opening track "Photograph" fits in with their early rock & roll image, as the remaining nine tracks unashamedly revel in the sounds of Dexys Midnight Runners on the terrace chants and triumphant brass riffs of the title track, early Pulp on the suitably titled woozy heartfelt ballad "Fragile," and Orange Juice (whose frontman, Edwyn Collins, features here on production duties) on the post-punk knees-up of "Tender," all of which are the perfect foil for lead vocalist Frankie Francis' charismatic yelping tones. The new wave funk of "Ungrateful" and the Franz Ferdinand-esque "It's Obvious" shows the bandmembers aren't averse to the odd indie disco anthem, but the album is much more convincing when it embraces the spiky romanticism of the group's obvious influences, from the tongue-in-cheek boy-meets-girl tale of "Possibilities," to the yearning melodies of "Want You Back," to the brooding balladeering of finale "Don't Look Surprised." Hailing from the same region as the Futureheads and Maximo Park, Frankie & the Heartstrings suggest there's something in the North East water, and although Hunger offers nothing new, it's still an irresistibly joyous affair that's every bit as accomplished as their neighbors' love letters to the era of student bedsit indie. ~ Jon O'Brien
Q (Magazine) (p.105) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Hunger's three-minute nuggets blend '80s guitar jangle with doo-wop harmonies..."
Uncut (magazine) (p.91) - "Edwyn Collins is the perfect producer to lend the jaunty jangles an edge of both darkness and charm."
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