24 September 2008

Friendly Fires

What do you get when you cross British electro-pop with some good old fashioned Brazilian samba? A wonderfully eclectic debut

A couple of weeks ago I talked about the appeal of Friendly Fires, a three piece band from St. Albans who are effectively saving the UK from another year of washed-up UK indie-rock. While indie-rock seems to be the genre du jour, electro-pop and all its associated sub-genres are creating an underground storm far more exciting than your Courteeners, Oasises and Glasvegases (yeah okay I know this is really bad grammar!) There's a reason why I'm buying mainly American this year - luckily this band have saved me from saying that I've only actually bought three albums from British acts this year! Now it's four.

"Paris" was featured last year of a taster of things to come from this little band and provided a glittering saving grace from the brash nu-rave that dominated the new music scene. While Klaxons et al were pushing a form of electro that was incredibly in-your-face, "Paris" was a sparkly, dreamy piece of electronica that could be enjoyed by anyone.

So to my despair they dropped off the radar, I thought into obscurity. Then they come back with the equally dreamy and very percussive "Jump In The Pool" which glides along magically as the first track on this album - the soaring vocals at the beginning of the song transport you to a magical world. "Lovesick" is a soulful, totally danceable track where Ed McFarlane's voice morphs so much you can hardly tell that it's the same man singing! There are moments of pure pop heaven as "Photobooth" and "In The Hospital" play and although these are both what you may term as "safe" songs they also show that Friendly Fires are willing to try different things and aren't glued entirely to one style of playing.

"Skeleton Boy" is almost childish in its persona but then it grows up in the chorus, then we have "On Board" which is daft but likeable - it's a bit like listening to Daft Punk in their least repetitive faze when they actually put together a "traditional" song (that'd be on "Discovery"). The most rock moment comes from "White Diamonds" which has a swagger all of its own.

I don't really know what's happened to the UK scene this year - it was all looking up in 2007 but now we've fallen off the bandwagon and gone back to the dirge of a few years ago. Once again America (and in particular New York) is leading the field for inventive and distinctly cool music but at least Friendly Fires are putting up a very respectable battle to save our face. Good on them!!

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