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Album Review: TBA

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Album Review: Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires

Friendly Fires have had their 15 minutes of fame, appearing as the first unsigned band on Channel 4’s Transmission, and they seem to have gotten a taste for it. With the release of this, their eponymous debut album, they have put together a dual attack of sun-drenched pop and mind-expanding atmospherics, which promises to have you shaking your tailfeather and shoegazing in equal measures.

Opener ‘Jump in The Pool’ is awash with sweeping vocals dropping out to leave a fiesta of staggered drums, chintzy guitars and deadened bass twang. Ed Macfarlane’s vocal on the chorus rises to a falsetto to nail the hook with a nod to the breathless class of The Jesus And Mary Chain. With ’In The Hospital’ we get a big streak of 80s pop and a funky groove, complete with “doo-doo” backing, handclaps, cowbells and maracas. This is party music for those with the hardiest of constitutions.

The combination of this twisted in-your-face pop is so far from the sudden heady, flights of fancy the band takes with their lapping waves of backfill that it seems impossible that the two could ever meet in the middle. At times, they pull things off with such subtlety and panache that it feels so normal, like they’ve perfected the art already (‘Strobe’ or ‘Ex Lover’); then there are other times when the dreaded clash occurs and the track disassembles itself into confetti (‘Paris’ or ’White Diamonds’). Deciding what’s good or bad isn’t as clear-cut as this though. Yes, the music occasionally clashes but that’s not to say that what there is inside is completely devoid of merit - maybe the band have shown a little naivety in construction. That’s all.

One place they appear to need no help is in production. The remarkable thing here is that the promo flyer reveals that the band find it difficult working with established producers and prefer to do things themselves - the recording sessions took place in Macfarlane’s parent’s house using DIY techniques. The only background they seem to have here is with the post-hardcore music that they used to play around with at school. “I think we took things too seriously back then”, says Macfarlane. “Obviously things have changed a lot since then. Writing a pop song wasn’t very high on our agenda, but now we definitely want to write songs with a pop edge.”

The words “pop” and “edge” are very much suitable descriptors of what this debut album is all about. It’s a stunning opening salvo full of razor-sharp wit and inventiveness. This is one fire that refuses to be extinguished.

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