Album Reviews

Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires

(XL) UK release date: 1 September 2008


Friendly Fires seem to be in the midst of one of these clamouring cataclysms also known as “media frenzies” in the run up to releasing their self-titled debut album. With any luck their dance-inducing, indie, genre-melding efforts will see them through the horror.

The St Albans trio have been kindling over the last year or so, creating a couple of sparks as the first unsigned band ever to play Channel 4’s Transmission show and signing to singles specialist Moshi Moshi. They stir up sounds from disco, funk, pop and latin party spice to end up with a Daft Punk-LCD Soundsystem-Hot Chip electro concoction that they is the foundation for the album.

According to the band, “the 37 minutes of music is the end product of two years’ inspiration, frustration, toil and passion. We set out to merge heartfelt, romantic songwriting with our love of the dance floor and blissful shoe-gaze guitars.” They produced it all in lead vocalist Ed Macfarlane’s parents’ garage, with the exception of Jump In The Pool, which was produced by Paul Epworth. Is mission accomplished?

Three singles Photobooth, Cross The Line and Paris pack punch, the latter a giant, deft and clattering centerpiece with its joyful, optimistic vocals and determined typically undemanding message (boy and girl go to Paris, to find respective girl/boy love). It’s a boon for instant gratification junkies. In The Hospital, with its disco flute, shares Paris’s extravagant chorus, punky foot-tapping and has its own restrained Talking Heads-styled vocal.

It is also an awesome relief to have such strong imaginative percussion. The poppy industrial, samba-infused digi-bass and angular disco of On Board and White Diamonds are tailor made for fierce bopping on some crowded dancefloor.

That said, they are also quite capable of testing the opposite extremes. The understated lo-fi assembled loveliness of Strobe is the single lilting, chilled out choral work that they provide to prove it. In this Macfarlane’s expression is on top form. His delivery in Ex Lover remains desperate throughout the repeated lyrics. He is notably emotive in Skeleton Boy.

But there are a couple filler tracks. Photobooth is rocking and cute but the infectious bit of funk bass line seems wasted here. Similarly, Love Sick is harmonious but flat. And Jump In The Pool, for all its bubbling atmospherics, manages to feel underwhelming.

The difference a little diversity makes is immediately evident for Friendly Fires. Quite what has held back the milieu of meandering morons that make up the music scenes mid range, mid class, middlemen is probably this intelligent and creative leap; crossing genres and keeping your opus open and fresh.

No doubt comparisons with fellow experimenters Late Of The Pier will be made as they both vie for attention. Pop eclecticism has risen, but there’s only room for a few masters; Friendly Fires will need to raise the temperature to get into the big league.


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