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Friendly Fires - Inflorescent (Album Review)

Thursday, 22 August 2019 Written by Helen Payne

Photo: Dan Wilton

There is nothing not to like about Friendly Fires. The trio are masters of huge, soaring choruses that display vocalist Ed Macfarlane’s range and fun grooves that sound like a holiday full of sun-soaked beaches, Hawaiian shirts and cocktail parties. So why is their latest album, ‘Inflorescent’, so forgettable?

It’s been a solid eight years since Friendly Fires released the gorgeous ‘Pala’. In that time, a teenage fan might have become a parent, got a mortgage. These guys have apparently spent the intervening years becoming mediocre.

That’s not to say their third LP isn’t enjoyable. It’s still got that general vacation-pop vibe that transports you to pool parties under a Balearic sun. There are the requisite pulsing synths and groove-driven beats on lead singles Heaven Let Me In and Love Like Waves, but there’s a lack of sincerity about them this time around.

On previous tracks such as Blue Cassette and Paris, listeners have had a narrative to follow, a storyline with which to engage while singing along to the effervescent melodies.

Here, the lyrics try to touch on living in the present and not wasting chances, yet the band end up squandering that opportunity by presenting the flimsy words of Kiss And Rewind and the not-quite-Latin-inflections of the breathy Silhouettes.

Melody wise, there’s a lot going on. “Bap bap bap” lines take over confidently, recycled synths come up time and again, sounding like the first tune that would make do for a bridge, and soulless brass flourishes battle to snatch the attention at every turn. Each refrain is easy to sing along to in the moment, but even easier to forget.

The record improves later on when structure is replaced by beats and the party moves to the club. The house sensibilities of Lack of Love and Almost Midnight get heads nodding and bodies moving by placing the vocals lower in the mix and stepping the percussive elements up a gear. The album’s closer, Run The Wild Flowers, concludes the whole thing with Friendly Fires’ best ‘90s-dance-via-Disclosure impression. It’s one of the LP’s finest cuts.

‘Inflorescent’ is a middle-of-the-road shimmer of holiday pop that is particularly fine for background music at your wet British barbeque, with the hope of pretending that the hot dogs or paddling pool aren’t as lousy as they are. But it lacks the genuine charm that made their previous work glow.

Friendly Fires Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed October 30 2019 - LONDON Roundhouse
Fri November 01 2019 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Institute
Sat November 02 2019 - MANCHESTER Albert Hall
Mon November 04 2019 - DUBLIN Academy

Click here to compare & buy Friendly Fires Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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