Published on May 22nd, 2011 | by greg0
Friendly Fires : Pala :: Review
Electronic music is on the rise again with a recent outpouring of releases by Cut Copy, Austra, Gang Gang Dance and now Friendly Fires just to name a few. While its been three years since their last outing, Friendly Fires return this summer to the dance floor and catwalks with “Pala,” a record named after a failed tropical retreat from Aldous Huxley’s 1962 novel, “Island.”
“Pala” was recorded in Ed Macfarlane’s parent’s garage in St. Albarns, England before the band decided they would have better acoustics in a rented seafront house in Rye which forced them to be more creative. The creativity that was sparked by the change allowed the band to incorporate extended effects, camera shutters and guitar lines inspired by old Hawaiian records, bells ringing, birdsong and manipulated samples. In another’s hands, this amalgamation might be a huge mess, but Friendly Fires took care in their creation to make an album that is a densely layered but breezy affair.
“Pala” opens with the airy “Live Those Days Tonight,” which recalls 90’s era dance pop that builds to a soaring anthem courtesy of handclap rhythms and a squelched keyboard. Lead track, “Blue Cassette” is driven more by the warped music and soaring chorus and will be ringing through your brain while you’re enjoying the sunshine this summer on a crowded beach. The infectious “Hawaiian Air” tackles the fun of air travel with suitable aplomb; there may never be a song as joyous describing the excitement of a layover.
The soulful “Hurting” follows and its soulful rhythms feel pinched and overshadowed by the industrial bent of title track, “Pala” that comes complete with incessant camera shutter overload. The faux funk of “True Love” falls flat but the Hawaiian guitar of “Pull Me Back to Earth” helps to keep the “Pala” pulse from flatlining. The sumptuous comedown “Helpless” closes the proceedings with lyrics about the ocean and waves before Friendly Fires take off from their island retreat, ready for new adventures elsewhere.