2011 saw debut album ‘Hunger’, 2013 saw follow up ‘The Days Run Away’, and with that came the now-legendary Pop Recs Ltd. The record shop come venue come cultural hub is now an essential part of the North East music scene which is why new album ‘Decency’ is not one to be overlooked. The Heartstrings have a couple of new members for this one, out goes guitarist Mick Ross and bassist Steven Dennis, replaced by Futurehead Ross Millard and former This Ain’t Vegas man Michael Matthews. Fans needn’t worry though as that trademark sound is still ever present, the new members only adding to it with there own distinctive styles, the backing vocals of Millard will be instantly recognisable to followers of the Sunderland indie rock scene.
My first taste of the new album came at The Cluny, a former bottling plant turned pub/venue in Newcastle’s Ouseburn Valley. The venue of choice for the band to give their loyal local following a first taste of Decency. The new album is undoubtedly more well rounded than the previous two, mixing the classic guitar driven indie anthems of old with a more mature brass section. This makes for a mix of atmospheric ballads such as Hate Me Like You Used To with the classic 2 minute wonders such as title track Decency. And it was with Decency that the band introduced themselves and their new material to a packed Cluny, playing a set full of old favourites and the new ones which are to become sure fire future favourites judging from the reception of the dancing crowd. The likes of Ungrateful and Tender were chanted word for word by the die hard Heartstring audience before a brief pause brought on a 3 piece brass section and a birthday cake for new bassist Michael Matthews. The band then quickly launched into new songs Save It For Tonight, Money and Someday Anna. Save It For Tonight being my personal favourite off the new album, a song which shows that Michael McKnight and Ross Millard have wasted no time forming a fantastic partnership on guitar, all the catchy riffs of old with a new direct edge.
The encore was a spectacle to behold especially for fans of seedy 1980’s club singers as the band emerged in full matching pastel blue suits as seen in the video for the albums leading single ‘Think Yourself Lucky’, a brass driven song with a catchy chorus harking to that of Northern Soul. The band closed with their crown jewel, the 6 minute emotional pile driver ‘Fragile’ leaving the both the audience and the band themselves excited as to what the future brings for Frankie & Co. A gig and an album that shows, despite the hardship of keeping Pop Recs afloat, The Heartstrings aren’t showing any fatigue.
Review By James Brydon.