Under Review: Friendly Fires – Pala

Despite the fact that they’re a pretty great band, Friendly Fires aren’t generally regarded as being a great band. It could be that their brand of emotional dance pop is not the most original-sounding collection of sounds, but their derivative style has nonetheless resulted in a series of impressive songs. Arguably, Friendly Fires are too much of a British sensation to cross over into the international scene, but they constantly flirt with leaping over the thin line to fame. Their self-titled debut was an assortment of crisp, robotic rhythms and worldbeat percussion, all the while featuring the almost pleading vocals of keyboardist Ed Macfarlane. The trio returns with a more natural sound on second album Pala, whose songs sound ready to be unleashed at a dance party held in a wide open field. Unlike Friendly Fires, Pala has a rich, human tone to its music, which includes forays into Moog-garnished disco (“Hurting”) and breakneck house (“True Love”). Pala reinforces the character that Friendly Fires have quickly built for themselves: vaguely tropical in composure, eternally longing for affection, and spectacularly fun.

Just like on Friendly Fires, Pala begins with a track that the band wrote with producer Paul Epworth. Epworth’s production on “Live These Days Tonight” makes Jack Savidge’s drums pop and gives a very Frankie Goes To Hollywood sound to Macfarlane’s keys. If there’s something that goes a little underused on Pala, it’s Edd Gibson’s Edge-inspired guitar playing. Perhaps, as they move farther and farther from their hardcore punk roots, Friendly Fires are intentionally downplaying the presence of the guitar. The album’s soulful title track features some sparse picking, and the intro to “Pull Me Back To Earth” sounds like a reggae-fied take on The Church or The Icicle Works. Their ‘80s influences aside, Friendly Fires are doing a solid job in crafting their place in the music world. They’re slyly clever (over-detailing the flight to the tropics in “Hawaiian Air”), passionately retro (“Blue Cassette”) and, best of all, ready to start a party.

~ by E. on June 3, 2011.

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