Friendly Fires: Pala (XL) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Friendly Fires



May 26, 2011 #36 - Music vs. Comedy Bookmark and Share

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After being nominated for a Mercury Prize, why not give your fans more of what they want? At least that seems to be Friendly Fires' theory. For their sophomore outing the band raised their glow sticks toward the heavens and continued on, crafting the same rave pop that made their self-titled debut such a buzzy pleasure. While the resulting album Pala replaces Friendly Fires' youthful urgency with professional polish, the 11 tracks still flash like a nightclub marquee.

Pala opens with one of the best Friendly Fires tracks to date, "Live Those Days Tonight." Vibrating under the weight of a piano-created baseline, electronic backing, and singer Ed Macfarlane's funkier-than-thou falsetto, it's not so much an invitation to the party as a violent shove in the direction of the dancefloor. It also has a frenetic energy that's impossible to maintainand even with producer Paul Epworth (Bloc Party, Foster the People, The Big Pink) at the helm, the album settles into a series of fun, yet all too predictable good-time grooves.

While an altogether glossier production, one thing that remains is an overwhelming sense of escapism. What once lead Friendly Fires to crave living in "Paris" returns for tropical-themed track "Hawaiian Air," and nostalgia-dripped "Blue Cassette." While the latter plays like a slowed-down My Bloody Valentine jam, the former is notable, not just for its subtle incorporation of regional percussion, but their restraint in not drowning the whole damn thing in steel drums.

Also benefiting from the less-is-more touch is "Hurting," where the band flirts with muted, chillwave-style electronics before falling back into their mid-tempo groove comfort zone. Ultimately though, it's a comfort zone guaranteed to get bodies on the dancefloor, and it becomes difficult to argue predictability verses innovation with a drink in your hand and a groove in your step. (

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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