Friendly Fires: Inflorescent (Casablanca/Polydor) - Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, August 10th, 2020  

Friendly Fires

Inflorescent

Casablanca/Polydor

Sep 26, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


On their third record, Inflorescent, Friendly Fires are grasping for the last of the summer sun, staring it down with little regard for their poor eyes or their rapidly melting brain matter. In the eight years since their last album, they've stripped their sound down to one immutable constant: does it make you dance?

Of course, Friendly Fires have always been an indie/dance act first and foremost, but the interim has seen them lean even further into the second half of that equation. Where once they followed the lineage of LCD Soundsystem and ESG, they're now forging a path into breezy, neatly-produced pop house. Remarkably, it makes for a smooth, if flat, transition.

It's telling that the opening lyrics on Inflorescent are "Ba da da bi bi ba na!" followed by a breathy "shake your body now." The ensuing 45 minutes are a sugary headrush of feel good bops, only flecked with a touch of the melancholy that once defined Friendly Fires' biggest hits such as "Skeleton Boy." It's knowingly light; a cheekily sipped bottomless mimosa.

If nothing else, it's impressive that they succeed in keeping such a "Suns out, guns out" atmosphere riding for the entire runtime. Almost every track, from the Latin-tinged guitars of "Silhouettes" to the hands-in-the-air fanfare of "Offline," feels ready to slot into your next pool party playlist. Whether or not you've curated such a playlist already probably speaks to the mileage you'll get out of it all.

A big part of the sound of Inflorescent boils down to the collaborative team Friendly Fires assembled for this project. The band have credited the trio of Mark Ralph, James Ford, and Disclosure (can you have a trio that includes a duo?) with guiding their new sound, and it shows. There are shades of Ralph's consummate pop sheen, James Ford's ear for catchy grooves and, most of all, Disclosure's Top 40 dancefloor fillers. It just lacks its own identity.

There a few moments on Inflorescent where the tone changes lightly. The downbeat "Cry Wolf" still slinks along atop a funky bassline, but its minor key momentarily pivots the focus from dancing your problems away to just straight up crying about them. These mild digressions never quite cohere into anything substantial though, and for the most part it's just a lighthearted rush. Needless to say, it's an album best digested in morsels. (www.friendlyfires.co.uk)

Author rating: 5.5/10

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Average reader rating: 4/10



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