Remember those crazy West Coast skate punks who sang about cheap beer and poor quality drugs? Well they got good, and I mean really good. In fact their latest album Almost Free is a little more like an experimental pop masterclass than a rough and ready blast through some simple punk tunes.
It’s bold from the get go and the band are clearly serious about making something truly left of centre. Not only did they recruit a producer who has worked with every member of pop royalty, as well as Pitbull and Twenty One Pilots - Ricky Reed, but also Manny Marroquin takes on mixing duties. The record serves as tangible proof that not only are the creative heads of the band - lead vocalist and guitarist Zac Carper and guitarist Elvis Kuehn - insanely clued up on their music history, but they are also not afraid to push boundaries with their approach to songwriting and recording.
Speaking ahead of the record’s release Zac said “Elvis is really into garage-rock and blues, and I’m usually listening to new shit. There’s a yin and yang happening, and Ricky was able to offset everything so it’s not so rock & roll and not so SoundCloud rapper—there’s a balance.” And he’s absolutely right, Not only is there a balance, but there’s a musical journey that will keep your jaw dropping with every off the wall decision.
The record still offers a few signature FIDLAR moments, most noticeably lead single ‘Alcohol’ which delivers those amp exploding riffs and demented melodies that helped the band make their name, yet it’s delivered with an even more palatable sense of maturity this time around. Through the 13 tracks they explore their most creative urges, blending the incredibly modern production techniques with a respect for their roots that serves as a beautifully self aware homage to their idols.
Lyrically Carper is at his best, exploring his sobriety in terms of both his own mental psyche and the direct effect it’s having on those around him. Standout track ‘Kick’ serves as a bleak look at the life of an addict desperate to stay on the straight and narrow. Lyrics such as, “I really wanna do some drugs, I think I’m suicidal, I really wanna fuck someone, go full on fucking primal,” paint the most incredibly bleak image of his reality whilst remaining staggeringly simple and scarily sincere.
Yet somehow in between the intense commentary on the singer’s personal life the band still manage to cram in some of the most progressive rock ’n’ roll music released in recent years. ‘Thought. Mouth.’ harks to both stadium rock, Weezer-esque 90s alternative and Nashville Bro Country within one three minute joyride and opener ‘Get Off My Block’ can only be described as exactly what the Beastie Boys would be doing had they started in 2019.
On first listen the record starts to trail off a little towards the middle third. It opens with such a self-assured bang and closes with an almost paralysing emotional climax that it’s hard to keep the energy going. However spend a little time with it and you will grow to love the slightly more fun second chapter of the album. It features an instrumental title track that sounds more like the intro to a 70s West Coast police flick than a track made by a band originally branded ‘skate punk’ and ‘Scam Likely' is a dance-y piece of social commentary filled with mesmerising brass arrangements and a drum sound that’ll make your heart pound and your brain explode.
It’s hard to write about Almost Free without wanting to mention every track. FIDLAR take the listener on a crazy journey through all of the great things about music, spanning every genre since the early 60s. Funk, glam, punk, rock ’n' roll, surf, pop punk, hip hop, modern pop, SoundCloud rap, psychedelia, country, grunge, you name it, it’s here. It’s an incredible feat for a band to have blended everything musically great about each decade into one glistening package that somehow screams 2019.