Review : Friendly Fires - Pala
PitchforkThere's a song on Friendly Fires' eponymous 2008 debut that's called "Jump in the Pool". The lyrical concerns are pretty straightforward (hint: jumping and pools are involved), but what makes it one of the LP's standouts is how its chorus takes the titular advice and just goes for it, changing from peppy polyrhythms to fast, charging lushness in a matter of seconds. It's a melodic shift that's as over-the-top as it is impressively delivered-- but that's kind of the point. Friendly Fires was best when playing to the rafters with romantic electro-gaze textures ("Skeleton Boy") and big, cheesy gestures ("Paris"). They're sensualists who excel under a lack of restraint.
Wisely, the band's sophomore effort, Pala, wastes no time submerging itself into its own indulgent environment. The multi-layered neon pop of album opener "Live Those Days Tonight" only hints at the LP's sonic ambition, as the band's immense co-production with buzz-bin consigliere Paul Epworth lends extra depth to its colorful sonic detail. There's been three years between Friendly Fires and this thing, and they've clearly spent it well by jewelling every last detail with careful precision (the B-movie blast that spools off "Blue Cassette"'s final reel, "Helpless"' backseat chatter and Boards of Canada keyboards).
To an extent, Pala also clears these guys' name on the "rockist dance-dilettante" list. From the galloping UK funky rhythm in "Chimes" to the filtered, bleeping funk of "Hurting", there's an array of styles tried on and, for the most part, successfully worn. Those successes speak as much to the band's listening habits as they do to a sense of maximalist adventurousness.
However, all the signifiers in the world don't change the fact that Friendly Fires are a rock band first-- and a particularly emotive one, at that. The band's three members got their start as teenagers in the never-known vocal-less "post-hardcore" (read: emo) outfit First Day Back. Anyone who's ever had a taste for that stuff knows that once it enters your blood, it tends to stay there, and Pala's high-stakes framework reflects that. Hearts are set on fire regularly (no, not like that), while impassioned pleas "Show Me Lights" and "Pull Me Back to Earth" are exactly as sweeping as you'd expect. It's when the band gets too entrenched in maudlin, dark-hued dramatizing (the too-slow-burn of the title track, "Chimes"' bald-faced falsetto foolery) that Pala's deep-sea diving feels similar to drowning....full text
NmeFriendly Fires' forthcoming second album 'Pala' is released on May 16. Here's our track-by-track response upon hearing it for the first time
Everywhere they go, they take the weather with them, and as if to herald the first fumbling fingers of spring, the return of Friendly Fires hits us like a warm sun on the back of the neck. As you’ll know by now, new album ‘Pala’ is named for a doomed utopia from an Aldous Huxley novel, an island fuelled by educational drug use, tantric sex and parrots trained to squawk positive slogans.
In places, the St Albans boys’ second sounds as blissed out and mystical as that suggests, but this being Friendly Fires, in others, it’s bug-eyed and manic and making us as skippy as newborn lambs. Like, I just bought a paddling pool for the NME Towers roof terrace…. Dip your toe in....full text
BbcWhen a hip hop stalwart like ?uestlove expresses vigorous approval of three white boys from St Albans, they must be doing something right. The esteemed Roots drummer/producer’s own crew appear as the house band on US show Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, yet he felt moved to tweet surprise and admiration at Friendly Fires’ March performance of Live Those Days Tonight.
For the show’s recording the tropical banger, which opens Pala in striking fashion, was augmented with carnival percussion, a sound Friendly Fires have been working towards in earnest since the release of their excellent eponymous debut album. When that first record was married with the trio’s sweaty, frantic live shows, any listener with a pulse could be in no doubt of the band’s scorching future.
Pala, though, takes the lead from terrific 2009 single Kiss of Life. It’s more about garlands and suntans than the New Order synths and straight four-to-the-floor beats of old. Blue Cassette, an utterly joyful parade of polyrhythms and wonky loops overseen by stellar producer Paul Epworth, epitomises the album. When Ed Macfarlane sings, "As I hear your voice, it sets my heart on fire," only the soberest of men and women won’t want to parade around in revealing swimwear and drizzle viscous, mango-flavoured fluids on themselves. It’s swiftly succeeded by Running Away, a more sedate and sophisticated track but still defiantly beachy, like The Invisible playing volleyball....full text
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