Full of ‘Na-Na-Na’s and ‘Whoa-Whoa-Whoa’s, this is easily digestible guitar pop for youth radio networks.

Any notion that Frankie & The Heartstrings had to separate themselves from the ‘twee’ label that was (a little unfairly) placed upon them after their debut album Hunger seems to have been shrugged off with their follow-up The Days Run Away. Produced by UK indie-pop royalty Bernard Butler, the album is full of clean, inoffensive pop numbers that, if heard blasting from a teenage daughter’s bedroom, the parents would nod approvingly. The band, hailing from Sunderland and now based in London, haven’t lost any of their small-town charm. They still sing about girls. They still sing about being from Sunderland. There are still enough oohs and aahs to make Dick Clark erupt from his grave and tap his pop-loving foot. But The Days Run Away is a slicker and more deliberately accessible album than Hunger. So is it a step in the right direction?

Well, the urgency is gone, replaced with a measured dedication to perfection. Whether this is producer Butler’s doing or something initiated by the band, nothing seems out of place. It’s squeaky clean. On the first album, there are so many moments that are messy and noisy with over-saturated guitars and bleeding cymbals fighting to get some airspace, and it sounds fantastic. On The Days Run Away, it’s all gone.

When the band gets it right, they are the dictionary definition of modern guitar pop. Songs like opener ‘I Will Follow You’ and the oh-so-New-Romantic ‘She Will Say Goodbye’ are strong cuts, and the album closes with two good songs in ‘Scratches’ and ‘Light That Breaks’. Unfortunately, everything in between seems a little contrived.

2.5/5 stars

BY RICK WARNER

The Days Run Away is out now through Popsex / Wichita.

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