Tuesday, 31 May 2011

SINGLE REVIEW: Friendly Fires - Live Those Days Tonight

The last encounter I had with St. Alban’s band Friendly Fires was at last year’s Reading Festival in a writhing mess of flailing limbs and Ed MacFarlane’s snake hips. As their lead singer sweatily strutted and shimmied his way along the barrier to the rhythm of dance-y synths and frantic cowbells, I realised what an exciting three-piece this band were. Back then their set predominantly comprised material from their explosive, Mercury-nominated debut album, hence my surprise when I heard the latest offering from the disco trio.

Although aesthetically there hasn’t been much of a shift of direction, something feels different to me on ‘Live Those Days Tonight’. Maybe it’s the retro, fade-in chords that open the track, maybe it’s Ed MacFarlane’s crooning “don’t hold back” or the slightly harebrained Late of the Pier-esque synths that underscore the layered interlude towards the end of the five minutes. Friendly Fires’ music has always had the brilliant quality of seeming to be intensely well-structured chaos.

Sadly, this single doesn’t seem to have captured that raw, jungle energy of the first album that crawled under your skin and was almost feverishly addictive. There is less of the hedonistic, carnival fun of the first album (see the funky ‘Lovesick’ and almost feral ‘Kiss of Life’), ‘Live Those Days Tonight’ is a little too polished, too sleek, (dare I say) a little too Ministry of Sound. The jolty, math-rock guitars and thumping percussion give me brief hope at something with more allure but these are vastly overshadowed by layer upon layer of over-produced dance floor-friendly synths. Although a vastly more ambitious track, Friendly Fires are more at home (and, well, better) when they’re stripped back to groovy basslines and primal beats and MacFarlane is doing less crooning and more yelping. I hope the boys will realise this for themselves and I’ll be waiting for them, with open arms. Until then, I’m just a little bored.

Written for The Whiteboard Project

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