Sound: Considering the fact that Jon Fratelli has recalled his false moniker from his first band, named the album after a lyric from The Fratellis B-side "Nina" and has even recruited his ex-drummer for live shows, this does mark quite a big departure from his earlier ventures. With The Fratellis, Jon was churning out high-tempo, upbeat indie-punk anthems which were at times irresistible and still stand head and shoulders above anything released in that genre since. But with "Psycho Jukebox", Jon has created a far more mellow, subdued version of his earlier works. The underlying influence of his first band is there in the "La la la's" of "She's My Shaker" and in the the scratchy riff of "Tell Me Honey" but these songs don't burst into life quite as dramatically as they may have done a few years ago.
This laid-back feel is to the album's detriment in places though; "Magic & Mayhem" and the lackadaisical "Caveman" drag on and don't really go anywhere, whilst "The Band Played Just For Me" takes far too long to reach its eclectic climax. Meanwhile, "Santo Domingo" suffers from the affliction of repetitiveness, and string-laden album closer "Give Me My Heart Back MacGuire" is a song so obviously written for his previous band, Codeine Velvet Club, it feels just lazy.
Nevertheless, "Daddy Won't Pay Your Bill" and "Rhythm Doesn't Make You A Dancer" evidence the fact that Fratelli still has an enviable ear for a good hook, though the former works far better acoustically. Perhaps the most memorable song here is "Baby, We're Refugees", in no small part down to its unrelenting need to be clapped and sung along to en-masse; it's a miniature anthem and perhaps the catchiest thing Fratelli has turned out since "Chelsea Dagger". // 5
Lyrics: One way in which Jon Fratelli has barely developed is in his songwriting. Even though the sound is calmer, the lyrics remain as crazy as they did when "Costello Music" first emerged all those years ago. Though lyrics such as "Play chopsticks on my guitar, drive backwards in your one wheeled car" are clearly questionable out of context, those familiar with Fratelli's songwriting will know that these somewhat bizarre lyrics do make some kind of sense within the songs. Even when the lyrics are slightly more difficult to decipher, Fratelli's craftmanship to weave his words in such an infectious fashion must be admired. // 7
Overall Impression: Ultimately, every song on "Psycho Jukebox" is flawed in one way or another, be it too languid, too repetitive or too effects-ridden. I suppose the joy, and even the whole purpose of making a solo album is to freely experiment with your art, with no one to limit your creativity, but this is the downfall of the album; whereas some artists have created entirely new sounds with their solo projects, Jon Fratelli has not shaken the influences of his previous bands, leaving us with "Psycho Jukebox", an album that is promising in places, but has the feel of a collection of The Fratellis and Codeine Velvet Club rejects. // 5