It’s a brave band indeed that names their third album Let’s Go Extinct, a portentous title suggestive of something akin to a career suicide. In the context of Fanfarlo’s career, the title may possibly be a premonition after two albums that were critically well regarded yet still haven’t seen them quite break through into the public consciousness. Alas, the title isn’t some sort of career reflection but rather something of a conceptual record looking at the world and humanity’s place within it. A questioning nature runs throughout each of the 10 keening pop tracks contained within.
The London based group, led by talented Swedish songwriter Simon Balthazar, have always possessed a flair for making classy indie pop and, on this third album, they make a subtle play to broaden that palette to include discreet electronic influences and more overtly danceable rhythms. In truth though, the predominant sound remains a sashaying grand style of indie pop that aims for exultant luxuriousness. Only on the bubbling, percussive rhythms and perky synths of the ebullient Landlocked do they really suggest a step forward.
For the most part Let’s Go Extinct coasts along on melodies that are perfectly pleasant and immaculately crafted yet lack any truly memorable quality. If anything, perhaps the songs are too well crafted. There are precious little faults with songs like the rollicking Life In The Sky or the airy symphonic pop of A Distance. You’re left yearning for any sort of edge or a disarming, bracing effect to offset the gloopy, smoothed out sounds. This is a problem exacerbated by the very 1980s quality of the production and the innumerable instances of braying saxophone of the Careless Whisper style. At its best, this ’80s sound can be quite lovely as on the Prefab Sprout style soul pop of Cell Song. More often than not though the effect is rather insipid, a feeling that any number of sweeping strings and brass flourishes cannot quite diminish.
Lyrically and thematically, the album is far more interesting than it is musically. There is a coherency and lucidity throughout as Balthazar ruminates and poses questions on evolution and the possibilities for the future. On the rousing We’re The Future he is positively bursting with hope and enthusiasm, a feeling that has dissipated by the time we get to the rather morose closing title track. It’s here where he posits escaping to some far off dream world and leaving all the problems of planet earth behind. If there is one success from Let’s Go Extinct it’s in the performance of Balthazar himself, his voice is lovely throughout reminiscent of Gene‘s vocalist Martin Rossiter. Many of the best moments on the album feature his croon in unison with multi-instrumentalist band mate Cathy Lucas, a feature you feel the band could have employed even more.
There is too much class and style on show here to dismiss Fanfarlo completely. Without doubt, a strong sense of identity and degree of ambition is on show. However, as accessible and proficient as it is, Let’s Go Surfacing is in its best moments little more than merely pleasant. Despite its shortcomings though, you get the impression it should solidify Fanfarlo’s audience and provide a further platform for the future that negates the doomy title. Fanfarlo should still be around for a while; you only hope they can make more of an impression in the future.