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‘Costello Music’ Turns 10

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In 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks were on the verge of something great. With a team built around two of the NHL’s most talented young stars – Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane – the Blackhawks were seeking to end a 49 year long championship drought. The organization also needed to bring back those fans who may have become disenfranchised over countless years of futility and poor management. They wanted to hit refresh and change the team’s aesthetic, starting with the celebratory goal song.

When looking for a new goal song for his team Tom O’Grady, the Blackhawks’ Executive Producer, didn’t take the task lightly. “We aggressively searched for a memorable goal song,” he said, until they heard a song called “Chelsea Dagger” by a band who called themselves The Fratellis. O’Grady heard it while watching a [Scottish Football Club] Celtic FC match and was “immediately struck by the song’s quirky and contagious chant.” Since then, every time the puck wrinkled the back of the net in Chicago, “Chelsea Dagger” blared over the cheers, becoming the team’s unofficial anthem (and the soundtrack to every opponent’s nightmares). Oh yeah, and the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup that year (and two more times since). Call that “The Fratellis Effect.”

“Quirky” and “contagious” are perfect words to describe The Fratellis and their debut album Costello Music, which turns 10 this weekend (October 30). Hailing from the persistently damp streets of Glasgow, Scotland, lead vocalist and guitarist Jon Fratelli (born John Lawler), bass guitarist Barry Fratelli (born Barry Wallace), and drummer and backing vocalist Mince Fratelli (born Gordon McRory) introduced the world to their raucous take on Britpop normally found within the beer-soaked local pubs in the northern UK.

Every music nut has that special album in their lives that awakened previously unused musical tastebuds. For me, it was Costello Music, and it hit me out of nowhere. This wasn’t a Beatles record I borrowed from my dad, nor something I had heard on the radio. For the first time in my  life, I had found something new  and completely unheard of on my own as a high school anglophile with access to iTunes (yeah, I know, I’m SUCH a millennial). The Fratellis were MY band, and I wanted to tell the world about them.

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I saw those three voluptuous women on the album cover of Costello Music, but when I heard the first few moments of “Henrietta,” the playfulness of the guitars and brass hooked me instantly. The rest of the album didn’t disappoint. This music was fun! At the time, I wasn’t sure people even made music like this. I had grown out of the “angry white boy music” phase of my life (thank God), and I was over the heavily compressed guitars and post-grunge on rock radio. So, The Fratellis found me at the right time.

The music on Costello Music was loud, fast, infectious, and unapologetically glam. Every song was one big drunken sing-a-long, with one arm around your neighbor’s shoulders and the other with a fat mug of beer raised high as you sing the chorus to “Baby Fratelli” at the top of your lungs. Jon Fratelli sang stories in a thick Scottish accent about fictional characters named Henrietta, Chelsea, Vince the lovable stoner, Little (pronounced “Lih-ull”) Steven and Joanna – all of whom made the people from “Piano Man” look like designated drivers. The Fratellis knew how to party, and the whole album sounds like one big celebration.

But why should you care about Costello Music? After all, I was an impressionable high-schooler with… let’s say… an underdeveloped musical taste. That’s hardly a vote of confidence, I know. Yet, when I revisit Costello Music today, it sounds just as fun as it did 10 years ago. I think a lot of that has to do with the production, as the band recorded the album at Sunset Studios due the vintage equipment there and  Jon’s desire to create an old-fashioned, analogue sound.  More importantly, the songwriting is strong. “Whistle for the Choir” and “Ole Black and Blue Eyes” remain two of the most endearing ballads I’ve ever heard, and “For the Girl” is another rambunctious album highlight that belies the aching love song inside. This album is full of drunken anthems, but it never staggers. It’s one of the most fun albums I’ve ever listened to, and it continues to be this day.

So, go! Go grab a pint, grab a friend, grab another pint, and come live amongst the has-beens and the addicts with the Fratellis and their memorably zany debut album, Costello Music.