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Friendly Fires | Pala

XL (2011)
By CARRIE BATTAN  |  June 7, 2011
2.0 2.0 Stars

Friendly Fires album 'Pala'

For a densely layered, expertly produced dance-rock album, this second full-length from British three-piece Friendly Fires is perplexingly bland. When the group released its homonymous debut in 2008, framing dance music with earnest indie-rock melodies could pass for forward-sounding or experimental. These days it comes across as self-serious and outdated (and it doesn't help their cause that frontman Ed Macfarlane sings his lovesick lines through pipes that are often reminiscent of Bloc Party lead vocalist Kele Okereke). The few points on the album that shine are those where the constraints of the indie-rockism that bound them so tightly on the first album are abandoned and the group draws more forcefully from disco and R&B. The title track, for instance, is a shimmering, down-tempo breath of fresh air bolstered by Macfarlane's experimentation with falsettos. Another highlight, "Hurting," ladles on a Prince-inspired disco-glam sheen, complete with goofy multi-layered synths and a lot of references to bodies touching. It's a brief — and fun — departure from the otherwise humorless disc. Moments like those probably won't make rock history, but at the very least they'll get people moving — or even smiling.
  Topics: CD Reviews , Music, rock, New Music,  More more >
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