“Friendly Fires” – ‘Friendly Fires’ [Joint Review]
So, we’ve been sure for the past week and a half that we’ve been wanting to do ‘Friendly Fires’, so it’s given us both ample time to sit back and absorb all its musical wonders. It’s probably only happened a few times where we’ve had two albums competing for a Sunday Joint Review time slot, either because we’ve totally disagreed on an album – which is yet to come, I’m fully open to anything these days – or they’ve both been so good, we just couldn’t resist. So, if you were wondering, last week’s ‘Dappled Cities’ – “Zounds” review won out over “Friendly Fires”, which we then decided still deserved a mention today, instead. Where “Zounds” had a more laid-back, somewhat intimate and depressing attitude, “Friendly Fires” is anything but. It’s cheeky, cleverly-composed, and totally in-your-face.
With ‘Edd Gibson’ on the guitar, ‘Jack Savidge’ on drums, and the masterfully-talented ‘Ed MacFarlane’ on vocals, this dancepunk album is sure to have you grooving in the streets left, right, centre and above:
I might receive some backlash for this comment, but ‘Friendly Fires’ are like the anti, the optimistic, the funk-infused brother of our faithful friends, ‘The Presets’. They sound nothing alike, but it’s a good opposite-comparison [wow, an oxymoron or what?] A healthy mix of synth and dumbed-down acoustic make for full-bodied tracks, and if you must have a positive-comparison, ‘Friendly Fires’ are not too dissimilar from our friend ‘Dappled Cities’ – hence my confusion for a while when I listened to their albums together. With an in-depth study, they start to lose this commonality, however. My head was spinning for a while, but I muddled my way through and picked up the pieces.
Genre, to begin with, and when I say funk-infused, I’m emphasising it – it’s not the funk we might have seen a few years ago, it’s new-age, it’s re-invigorated, and makes for upbeat listening packed full of vitamins and anti-depressants. I don’t know how else to put it, tags suggest indietronica, which is a combination of indie and electronica, which isn’t too far off the mark because it takes elements from both – but when I think of bands like that, ‘Midnight Juggernaughts” springs to mind. Dance? I guess you could dance to it, I’m not much of a dancer myself, but dance nowadays is somewhat limited to the rave-ambient-scene, this is concert-material. Overall, “Friendly Fires” is playing with three basic elements – electronica, indie and funk.
Yes, funk-infused. Mixed with – did I say healthy, if yes, I’ll say it again – a “healthy” dose of synthesised beats and samples, together with some deliciously-strung bass and tantalising vocals. When we concern the lyrics, I don’t personally find too much to rave about, they work harmoniously with track-titles, so everything’s appropriately named, unlike some albums: you know who you are, peoples. Some might find these funk-infused lyrics a little tiresome at some stages, and mildly-repetitive; example = “Lovesick”. In other places, it’s just what a song needs. If you’re the kind of person that likes an album the nudges in all emotional-directions, i.e. happiness, sadness, cheeky, soul-filled, epic+ and legend-status, then you might be a little bit weird…
… Like myself. “Friendly Fires” is like looking through a time hole, back into the past. It’s constant upbeat-nature mightn’t please some listeners/readers, but it’s just how ‘Friendly Fires’ have decided to do things this time round.
Now to individual tracks, I’ll skip track-contextualisation, because I don’t think there’s much to explain – songs just usually follow the same routine. “Jump In The Pool” opens with some synthesised vocals, an explosion of percussion: cowbells, drums, etc, and the lyrics:
“In a city sky rise hotel…” [my bad, sorry]
Phrases aren’t particularly memorable, unlike ‘Ramona Falls’, it’s the music that really makes it for ‘Friendly Fires’. When we get to the 00:35 second mark, there’s just this mass of instrument and voice, pushing the word crescendo to its limitations. It’s just building on those classic layers that make up a good song, instrumental-backing, leading-lyrics, airy-vocals. It’s probably what drew the comparison to indietronica, because it’s lacking that funk that so prominently appears throughout the rest of the album. It’s a fantastic opener for a song, it’s nudging on the epic mark, with some wonderful solos, some great riffs, and it’s just generally well-rounded.
“In The Hospital” is where we first start to see that funk creep through, and it’s here that we get this cheeky-riff. It’s the only way to describe the way the bass/guitar tickles in the background. The way “Uhh…” is eccentuated on part of ‘Ed MacFarlane’, the twisted sound of the guitar itself. Yup, very reminiscent music happening here. Again, the lyrics “in the hospital” feature appropriately, so that’s another tick in my book. When the song builds to its crescendo, we’ve got everything just powering through to the end. It’s a simple, effective musical equation, it’s successful and memorable, and in this case, ‘Friendly Fires’ pull it off for me.
“Paris” sees a return of the indietronica that we saw in “Jump In The Pool”, and so ‘Friendly Fires’ are continuously shakin’-it-up for us-guys by switching between the funk and the ‘tronica. It has the wavy-synth, the juxtaposing vocals and instrumentation, simplistic-lyrics. I won’t go into any more detail, because I’d just be repeating myself even more.
I will say that the switch between styles is probably the sole driving force behind this album, and it’s why I like it. It doesn’t give you enough time to get stuck into a specific disposition on the album for too long. I mean, if you just look at one song, you can’t justify your opinion on the rest of the album – they’re all unique, and the only thing they have in common are composition; even then, it’s limited to funk and ‘tronica. It’s something I tend to do with a few albums, pick a song, it’s the worst one they have to offer, and my opinion is made up then and there. It’s a bad habit I’ve tried to break, but you know: what’s the point of putting it on the album if it’s not up to standard. I’d rather be left wanting more from an epic+ five-piece album than a sub-standard 12-piece that’s just cobbled together with the good and the bad. I suppose the record-companies are to blame from one perspective, and the artists for obeying their almighty whim on the other.
Another argument for another day, onto the rating and I’m going to give it a funky-four, I don’t mind a bit of change every now and again, and it’s warmly welcomed in my opinion. Artists don’t have to keep looking forward for musical-change, sometimes you can take an old brass penny and make it shine again, and here we have it: “Friendly Fires”. An album well worth the review, the wait, hope you guys like it, I know I did.
The Enantiomorphic God