Friendly Fires at their most beautiful...
Laura Davies

15:37 17th May 2011

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The boys from St Albans have had a lot to deal with in the past couple of years: the pressure of creating the difficult second album, attempting to move their own unique brand of samba electro rock along without being compared to George Michael, and staying out of the way of ‘flailing arms frontman Ed Macfarlane’ and his addictive dance moves that can only be described as having an awkwardly sexy fit to music.

Opener and first single 'Live Those Days Tonight' carries on where Friendly Fires left off after the snowballing success of their debut 2008 eponymous record: jangly pop with a distinctive Latino beat – already being dubbed ‘tropicalia’. 'Blue Cassette' starts out slowly with Macfarlane finding one of those plastic retro music devices – what are they called again? Oh that’s right, tapes. He croons about the good old days, when illegal file sharing was simply a few people posting cassettes to like-minded fans.

Despite the slow(ish) start, it doesn’t take long before the threesome have got their dancing shoes on again and mixing up the electro sound on 'Hawaiian Air' – a glorious slice of summer disco punk. These boys were made for festivals. And singing “With the sun kissing my face, there’s no way that I can lose” on 'Hurting', it’s no accident that 'Pala' is being released just in time for summer.

The title track slows the dance down – think lazy afternoons in Ibiza, cocktail in hand. It’s Friendly Fires at their most beautiful. A startling difference, proving that they do have more – albeit in small chunks.

'True Love' has a twang of cult hero Tom Vek in it and is an instant dance floor filler – less crunching guitars than the debut, but with a distinctive hint of 2 Unlimited. Which is honestly a good thing here.

Friendly Fires have their formula – and they’re certainly sticking to it – but when no one else is doing it as well, maybe they’re smart to reproduce what they do best. The second album is out of the way unscathed, so maybe the third will see a far more experimental Friendly Fires. And who knows, it might even be released in winter. We doubt it, though.

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