5 Music Review

Friendly Fires: 'Pala'

Friendly Fires: 'Pala'
Released on Monday, May 16 2011

As indie bands of years past re-emerge from the indie band landfill of '05, a return to 'real', guitar-based music has been repeatedly called upon. That said, there is one group who intend to assault today's pop-dominated charts from a different angle. Three years after their self-titled debut, St. Albans trio Friendly Fires have returned to both excite and worry fans with claims of a more "poppy" sound, citing inspirations such as Justin Timberlake and the Backstreet Boys. Seeming to embrace pop-culture rather than resist it, just how "poppy" have Ed Macfarlane, Jack Savidge and Edd Gibson become on Pala?

  • The album's lead single - euphoric, barnstorming 'Live Those Days Tonight' - sets the tone for the record from the off, establishing the band's move into a more dance-influenced, nu rave direction. Second single 'Hawaiian Air' melts together lofty synths and a pace-driven rolling beat, chronicling the band's escalated jet-setting lifestyle since their first record.

  • The remainder of the 11-track record is littered with traces of the '90s. 'Show Me Lights' is a shining example of the band's self-confessed N*SYNC influence with its perfectly pop-styled melody and plunging drum rolls, while 'Hurting' evokes elements of old-school hip-hop. Title track 'Pala' emerges as one of the album's more serene, chill-out numbers that magnificently fuses together oriental guitar riffs with swooping, dream-like harmonies.

  • The production is noticeably more refined and lighter than their debut. Each track has a unique quirk - the urban-flecked electronic keyboard hook on 'Hurting', the insistent but infectious laser-woops that run through 'Hawaiian Air' or the distorted 'rewinding' effects on 'Blue Cassette' - all of which are bound together with earthy, tribal beats that strum throughout.

  • Although not considered a singles act, the band have in fact created a strong roster of radio-ready hits here, including 'Show Me Lights', 'Hurting' and 'Blue Cassette' - though the surreal atmosphere that engulfs 'Pala' could do well to gain the record some much deserved attention.

  • As a follow-up to a highly-regarded debut, Friendly Fires have crafted a considered and clever dance-inspired album that confidently informs their progression. There are some notable pop moments on the record, but the overall result is a '90s nu-rave ensemble that brings together influences from Ibiza club-classics to moments of bass-booming funk. Akin to what La Roux did for reworking a classic sound and making it relevant in 2008, Friendly Fires have managed to achieve the same on Pala without straying too far from their roots.

    What do you make of Friendly Fires' new album? Which are you favourite tracks? Leave your comments in the box below:
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