Francine “The Story Of Francine”
Spotify may have it’s haters, but there’s no doubting that it can help people discover new music. Francine first came to our attention as they featured on a rockabilly playlist we were listening to. We loved the couple of songs we heard and had to check out some of their stuff. This album is actually a compilation covering their vast catalogue of releases.
It opens, somewhat surprisingly, with a cover of the Pink song “Trouble”. Now, don’t run away, it’s really great!. Although, admittedly, we liked the original and this is a great rock n roll version. Indeed, whilst Francine’s heart may be in rockabilly, they offer far more diversity than most bands in that genre. “I Don’t Give a Damn” is an absolutely mighty rock song which seems to owe as much to INXS as Chuck Berry. Tracks like that and “You Get Me Wrong” are great rock songs that should’ve been huge commercial hits.
There’s still plenty on here for those that like a more pure rock n roll sound. It includes the bluesy rock n roll of “Goodbye Forever” or the awesome (Stray Cat) strutting of “She Bop”.
There are some tracks like “King For A Day”, “Strychnine” and “Talking Heads” which could be said to verge on Psychobilly territory. But, again, they don’t get caught in the clichés of that genre. Instead, these are more like rock n roll songs played with punk passion. Something also apparent on “Never Let You Down” which has a hint of Rockets From The Crypt about it.
Francine are also a band not afraid of throwing a little ‘pop’ into the mix. Something perfectly demonstrated by “Annie”, a song which could’ve been a global smash for Busted or McFly! Whilst “Watcha Gonna Do” and “Anything You Do” could equally have featured heavily on U.S. commercial rock radio or MTV (back in the day).
This is also a band that knows it’s rock heritage, as shown by the inclusion of a track by one of our all time favourite bands, Hanoi Rocks. Francine deserve great credit for doing a brilliant cover of their classic song, “Taxi Driver”. They keep the sleaze of the original and give it an added rockabilly twang. Hell, they even manage to take elements of our least favourite genre, Ska, and make it sound good on “Never grow Up” and “Bye”. Impressive stuff!
They don’t, however, get too clever for their own good and forget what they are primarily all about. Songs like “Let’s Take A Ride To Mars” and “Flames Of Hell” are just great rock numbers built for playing loud. A special mention must also go to “One In A Million”, which is actually a pretty apt description of the song itself. It’s one of the best songs we’ve heard in years. A perfect blend of pop and rock. We’re really not sure why this song alone hasn’t made Francine a household name.
Now, of course, this is a compilation album so perhaps they’ve just taken their best couple of tracks off each album and the rest of them are just duds. So… we thought we’d test that by also reviewing their last full release:
It takes some balls to open up with the classic sound of “Come On, Let’s Go”, but their confidence is well placed on this great version. We then move on to “Highway”, a song that sounds like Johnny Cash fronting a hard rock band. Songs like “Money” and “You” are some of the best modern rock songs we’ve heard in a long time. Delivered with a swagger but not cockiness. They’re songs that are built to be played at packed out gigs.
Again though, it’s the diversity the band offers that makes them so special. As the title suggests, “Bastards” is a harder song with an almost funk metal riff and then “Blue Streak” takes us on a more haunting, bluesy trip before we get the punk ska of “Kill Me.
Of course, there is still plenty of time for some good old rock n roll. You will find it impossible to keep the stereo down or your head still whilst listening to “Torremolinos Love” or “Time To Go”. Then, once again, they deliver some exquisite pop n roll on “Need You So”, the brilliant “Second Time Around” and “Talkin In Your Sleep”, more songs which leave you wondering why they aren’t huge.
Let’s not beat about the bush, we love this band and these albums. It’s so great to find a group to add to our list of favourite bands. The sad thing is that these releases appear quite hard to find in the UK. But don’t let that stop you, sure get a taste for them from your favourite streaming provider, but then do everything you can to track down all their albums (that’s what we intend to do!).