Although casual observers will understandably deem this Detroit quartet power pop, The Fletcher Pratt upheld its city's gritty heritage by not being saccharine dinks. The marshmallow sweets on Nine by Nine (which retrieves some of the eight songs from the brief 1999 mini-album) come wrapped around a craggy rock that leaves bloody scratches rather than a throbbing tooth. Guitarists George Dubber (urgent, keening voice with a bit of a Marc Bolan wiggle) and Stephen Palmer (more of a gruff Paul Weller bawler) write and sing diverse tunes that balance sardonic wit with sweet sentimentality and infuse the whole shebang with breathless energy that positively kicks melodic ass. They each sing lead, but share refrains and choruses to fine effect, egging each other on with skilled abandon.
Suspended in the ether between '60s British Invasion and '80s post-punk aggro, Nine by Nine is a gem made all the more potent by the band's audible enthusiasm, countless bits of inventive business (tremolo and chukka-chukka guitar accents on "Spin Label"; an Elvis Costello coda on "Living in the House"; a Beatle lick on "16 Days (Unsteady)") and Al Sutton's rough'n'tumble production. "Electrocute" is a roaring joy that opens the album with the quizzical triplet "Electrocute my mind/Take away my time/Do just what you want to" and contains a gorgeous bridge; "Spin Label" stomps like a bull with a hotfoot; the charming "Satellite" breaks up a dinky three-chord romance (complete with handclaps) that wouldn't challenge the skills of a Trio cover band by inserting a tricky bridge that turns the song inside out, leaving the verses and chorus as the light relief, not the heavy lifters. It goes on like that for three-quarters of an hour, exceeding expectations at every turn. A stupendous debut that ended the band's recording career. Ira Robbins Trouser Press
The Fletcher Pratt's Nine by Nine album is one of the best retro power pop albums. The Detroit band exhibited a fine grasp of the proper ratio of power to pop, crafted winning melodies and laid them down with all the confidence of a band on top of the world. Pity that nobody was listening. Double pity that the group broke up soon after the release. If you dug that record you will want to try to track down their Slumber Party Highs. It came out a year before Nine by Nine and shares three songs: "Electrocute!," "Sugar Won't Let You Sleep," and "Satellite." On this E.P., their sound is not as sharp and tough. The guitars don't leap out and grab you by the throat, and the drums lack power. (This difference in sound is especially apparent on "Electrocute!" which is a screaming rock classic on Nine by Nine, but here has electric piano and 12-string guitar involved. It is still a great song, but the band sure did improve it.) Despite this, Slumber Party Highs is still quite enjoyable; singers George Dubber and Stephen Palmer are rock and roll tough, and pop tender, and the songs that don't appear on Nine by Nine are all top-notch. "Pussycat" is a fine beat ballad with an early Elvis Costello feeling, "Rocksteady" is a nicely bopping rocker with a boss hook, and "Queen's Crown" captures the feel of mid-'60s Kinks without aping their sound. Slumber Party Highs is loads of fun, and a vital piece in the Fletcher Pratt puzzle. Good luck finding it! Tim Sendra - All Music Guide
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