We Need Medicine marked the Fratellis' return from a four-year hiatus, during which time Jon played with Codeine Velvet Club and pursued a solo career, Barry toured with the Twang, and Mince played with Throne o' Diablo and Jon's backing band. Wisely, the trio doesn't try to pick up where they left off, which was 2008's relatively mannered Here We Stand. Nor do they try to recapture Costello Music's giddy heights; instead, they opt for a slightly more grown-up, slowed-down version of their sound that has a bit more grit and swagger. The brash opening track "Halloween Blues" is just as rollicking as anything by the Fratellis of old, and while it may not be as rambunctious, it shows that the band hasn't forgotten how to have fun during its hiatus. The trio also brings some aspects that used to be on the fringes of their music to the fore; the dark, driving undercurrent on songs such as "Jeanie Nitro" and the Stones-y "Shotgun Shoes" feels more genuine here than it did on earlier albums. Likewise, the historical allusions that have always peppered their music seem more natural, and the countrified pedal steel on "Until She Saves My Soul" and the twangy '50s guitars on "Seven Nights Seven Days"' sound equally fresh and familiar. There are also hints of some emotional growth on We Need Medicine's more heartfelt moments: "This Old Ghost Town" and the anthemic "Rock N Roll Will Break Your Heart," both stay on the right side of the fine line between earnest and schmaltzy. While a few songs wander too close to lunkheaded bar rock, We Need Medicine reveals a surprising amount of vitality and growth for a band that spent nearly half a decade apart. Not only is it a welcome return, it's one of the Fratellis' most consistently engaging albums.
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