NME (Magazine) - "[A] pleasant surprise....He's clearly also a career songwriter, and there's plenty of artisanship on show..."
Photographer: Eleanor Hardwick.
While the Fratellis went back to basics on We Need Medicine, they find unexpected ways to revisit their early days on Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied. The band recruited Costello Music producer Tony Hoffer (who has also worked with M83 and Belle and Sebastian) on this set of songs, and with his help they branch out from their usual mix of carousing anthems and Americana. "Me and the Devil" wastes no time in announcing that the Fratellis are trying different things: its massive sweep sounds more like Muse than the band responsible for "Chelsea Dagger," though its refrain of "I'm gonna sell this soul of mine" ultimately pounds itself into listeners' heads just as firmly as their hits. Elsewhere, Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied is filled with audacious arrangements and production, ranging from the relatively subtle Mellotron flourishes on "Rosanna" to bolder moves like "Moonshine," which falls somewhere between smooth jazz and yacht rock, and "Impostors (Little by Little)," a fusion of shuffling skiffle, synth washes, and pedal steel oddly reminiscent of the Traveling Wilburys' mix of old-school rock and glossy '80s sounds. More often than not, this eclecticism seems natural; it only sounds somewhat forced on "Dogtown," perhaps because its reference points -- the shuffling cool of the Beatles' "Come Together" and the slinky clavinet from Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" -- are so iconic. Even when the band returns to more familiar territory, the results are often stranger and rangier than before. "Baby Don't You Lie to Me!" juxtaposes well-oiled riffs with vaguely psychedelic passages; "Thief" sharpens the band's swagger into spikes; and "Too Much Wine" is such a quintessentially boozy Fratellis rave-up that it almost sounds like they're sending up their signature sound. What prevents Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied from being a total hodgepodge is the songwriting, which is some of the band's best. The ballads are some of the most memorable songs here -- a first for the Fratellis. "Desperate Guy" and the Charles Bukowski-inspired "Slow" are equally crafted and heartfelt, and coupled with the album's slick production, sound like they could be outtakes from Bruce Springsteen's Tunnel of Love. Despite the many individual strengths on display, all of the different sounds and ideas the Fratellis pack into the album don't always mesh well. Even if it lives up to the bewilderment in its title now and then, Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied is the kind of playful, unpredictable set a band can make once it reaches its fourth album. ~ Heather Phares