Single Review: Friendly Fires – Live Those Days Tonight

By on Wednesday, 23rd March 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

Anyone who’s mates with me knows not to cross me when Friendly Fires comes up in conversation. In 2009, I travelled all over the place for those lads, and it was all because they put on a great live show. They put on a great live show because their debut album ‘Friendly Fires’ was brilliant in its simplicity: three young kids wrote and recorded their album in a garage in St. Albans, proving that you don’t need a ton of money, just a lot of talent and heart to make an amazing album (and a Mercury Prize-nominated album at that). 2008 was a long time ago, and now they have a lot to prove, coming back to the fold after what could be, to lesser bands, a precipitous drop off the musical radar.

Friendly Fires have some of the most devoted fans on the planet. (And I can say that because I’m one of them.) However, even I wondered how they would be received after an amazing 2009, then only making a few festival appearances here and there in 2010. Judging from SPIN’s report from this year’s South by Southwest, the band made a funky showing at the annual March industry soiree in Austin, so I take this as a good sign that Friendly Fires is back this year with a roar. But for everyone else like myself and probably the majority of you, yesterday’s premiere play on Zane Lowe’s Radio1 programme of ‘Live Those Days Tonight’, the first single from their upcoming second album ‘Pala’, was the first time we’ve heard any of the new material.

The good news: it’s funky and catchy. But it’s Friendly Fires, so it was always going to be funky and catchy. It’s going to be fabulous dance floor filler, and I would expect nothing less from them. As usual, drummer Jack Savidge gets a workout. The bad news: there’s this jarring beat (synthed piano?) that reminds me of that clanking noise in the Law and Order tv show theme song and some boyband tunes in the late ’90s.

The main problem? Too much going on. Sensory overload. Having seen Friendly Fires live five times, I know they put on a good show and they have plenty of talent. These three don’t need all these layers. Ed Macfarlane’s voice is strong and sultry enough to shine without loads of things going on in the background, and yet in ‘Live Those Days Tonight’, it’s almost like he has to shout just to compete with all the things vying for attention. And maybe it’s the mix, but Edd Gibson’s guitar gets lost in the shuffle. Travesty. (This is coming from a girl whose mum has heard ‘Kiss of Life’ so many times, she can hum the guitar solo.)

Maybe I need to see them perform it live to change my mind, but right now, I’m underwowed. I’m really hoping to be astonished by the rest of the album. Fingers crossed.

7/10

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9N9yLr2VmAY

Pala will be released on 16 May. Friendly Fires will preview tracks from the new album at a one-off gig at London XOYO – buy pre-sale tickets exclusively from the band’s Web site.

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