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. It's not going to change many lives or break many hearts, but crucially it is going to break some hearts, save a few lives, while it unshowily goes about its business of being the perfect twenty-first century indie pop record.
What The Days Run Away has in spades is charm, character, wit and heart. It's part of a grand tradition of beautifully balanced, honest indie and indie-pop that has its roots in the Eighties and The Smiths, Postcard records and C86, bloomed in the Nineties with the cuter end of Britpop and forged its own identity in the last decade or so thanks to the likes of Los Campisinos, Slow Club, Betty and the Werewolves and the Tender Trap. The kind of bands that come with hand drawn fanzines and and a reverential approach to 7" vinyl. The kind with the history of British alternative music stretching behind them like ghosts, the shades of Johnny Marr and Bernard Butler looking over their shoulder. In this case the latter is literally true, Butler himself is onboard for production duties, and as with the two Libertine's singles he produced (their best two, FYI) his touch is deft and rarely overshadows his charges.
The watchword here is 'pop', from opener 'I Will Follow' onwards The Days Run Away remains punchy, hitting us continually with hooky, chimey riffs, with every chorus a winner. 'That Girl, That Scene' and 'Invitation' are Orange Juice via the Auteurs with added handclaps, 'Nothing Our Way' is a carefree Smiths, while 'Right Noises' and 'She Will Say Goodbye' smack of those second tier britpop bands like Marion, Menswear or My Life Story, and that dear reader is no bad thing. Those bands were a lot better than they got credt for. What's shared with all of those bands is an emotional honesty, lyrics here trim all fat and cut to the core of each song. "I know I'm losing you, I'm losing a friend" sings Frankie Francis on 'Losing You' as Butler sprinkles glockenspiel and rising, slightly discordant strings behind him, "Every time I think of you it makes me cry, I never had the chance to say goodby" he sings on 'First Boy', the record's shimmering heart.
It's a punchy, perfect length as well. The whole thing comes in at a shade over half an hour, with most songs comfortably sailing under the three minute mark. Would that more albums knew to be so succinct. This is a collection of elegantly assembled, fat-free pop songs, made from light and air and heart, and great choruses. It's the soul and centre of indie pop and deserves your immediate attention.
8Marc Burrows's Score