Album Reviews

Freeform Five – Strangest Things

(Ben Hogwood) UK release date: 25 October 2004

Free form is an apt description for this outfit, and it’s encouraging to report they dispense with formulas, dos and don’ts, arriving at their own natural thing. In fact they’re so free form there aren’t even five of them! The quartet is interchangeable, and three of the four are vocally proficient.

Straight away the album hits you between the eyes, with the enticing, almost sleazy tones of Electromagnetic recalling Prince in his heyday with its slithery funk. This leads into the glorious recent single Eeeeaaooww, a riotous NPG-type track with a superb rap from Bounty Killer, exhibiting plenty of energy and reckless abandon.

The quality tracks continue throughout, and whereas most albums tail off after the lead singles Strangest Things consistently satisfies. Losing My Control states “there’s no need for restraint, mend your foolish ways” with an endearingly innocent female vocal cooing in response.

That song covers one of two major themes on the album – temptation (and eventual submission), and break-up, a subject achingly referred to on Easy, which coins the brilliant couplet “I need a drink, just looking at you makes me sober”. It’s torch-bearing stuff, as is the emotive chorus to Slow, which reaches an inner power barely hinted at earlier in the song. If ever there were a gig lighter-waving moment, this would be it!

Slow is one of several tracks to feature the breathy tones of Nick Decosemo, who sounds uncannily like Paddy McAloon in delivery at times. His closing double – not the most convincing tracks on the record – feature him in fast (Ask Me Tomorrow) and slow (What Are You Waiting For) modes. The latter makes a neat coda, mind, as the record burns itself out.

By noting these tracks as less effective shows just how good the rest of the album is. Some of the faster music is brilliantly energetic, uplifting and humourous. The groups can interchange between musical styles at the drop of a hat, too. No More Conversations sounds like The Cardigans cranked up a gear or two, while the title track starts off like the Scissor Sisters but turns up the guitars to engage in a rousing duo of choruses.

Even after several listens Strangest Things is one of those records that defies genre placement – always a good thing – and although the band have been compared to Basement Jaxx there’s more pop sensibilities on show here, with even better tunes and a knowing way with a lyric. This lot are going to be well worth watching, and their sparky debut will continually push its way towards the front of your record collection.

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Freeform Five – Strangest Things