Album Review: Friendly Fires - 'Inflorescent'

Alex gives a run-down of the first studio album in eight years from Hertfordshire indie rockers Friendly Fires.

Ah, the halcyon days of 2011. Mr. Trump was just that rich, orange, American geezer, Rebecca Black was giving us all tinnitus and the last Harry Potter movie had finally been released. 2011 was also the year I first properly discovered the terminally declining NME (lol, remember that?). Indeed, insecure 16 year old me thought that I looked like the real deal when replicating my favourite musicians in my double denim (yes you read correctly, it was 2011 not 1985), accompanied by my terribly sounding second, maybe third hand guitar. Locked away on the inside of the NME was a colourful poster that ended up on my bedroom wall, promoting the album Pala by a band called Friendly Fires, going up alongside posters advertising Noel Gallagher’s first solo album, the delightful Marina & the Diamonds and the unfairly forgotten Suck it and See by Arctic Monkeys.

Image courtesy of Dan Kendall

A lot has changed in the time since Friendly Fires released Pala. The fact that it’s taken eight whole years for a new album to be released has been somewhat of a disappointment. In fact, I had pretty much forgotten about Friendly Fires until I stumbled across them at an ungodly hour while rather intoxicated on the smaller stage at NOS Alive Festival in Lisbon in 2018. Instantly, I returned to 2011 on hearing the incredible Hawaiian Air and Hurting in succession, with that distinctive dancey tone in which they deliver so well.

Fast forward a year and I’m about to have my first listen of the new Friendly Fires album Inflorescent. Leading up to the release, we’ve been treated to four tasters from the album, however I am intrigued to know how these single songs will fit into the album. The songs are a slight departure from their previous work, all are incredibly uplifting, exciting even, however it’s still evidently Friendly Fires.

Can’t Wait Forever is the opening song on the album and appropriately titled, given the band's hiatus. It sets the tempo early on. We then immediately jump into the best two songs on the album. Heaven Let Me In screams Ibiza, it screams unbridled ecstasy. Produced by Disclosure, the song feels like a more grown up, however equally intoxicated brother to the famous White Noise. Silhouettes is the most recently released single and includes my favourite moment on the album, the drop into the chorus and the line “I had to miss the plane, to be with you”, hardly romantic or cutting-edge lyrically, however within the context of the song and album, the use of this line as an instrument makes it a fantastic input.

"All are incredibly uplifting, exciting even, however it’s still evidently Friendly Fires."

Throughout the album, as documented within the media recently, there is a fine line towed between cutting-edge indietronica and a homage to Fastlove era George Michael (not that that’s a bad thing, in fact I’d call it a compliment). Indeed, it does feel like a journey throughout the modern dance ages, taking influences from the acid house scene and one can really feel the influence of Disclosure throughout. Triumphant and jazzy.

Sleeptalking is the most downbeat moment on the album and perhaps the weakest song. Before another strong trio of Kiss and Rewind, Love Like Waves and Lack of Love. Love Like Waves is the most traditionally sounding Friendly Fires song on the album and wouldn’t sound out of place on their previous albums. Lack of Love has no lack of love for acid house; it's a true throwback as a cover of a 1988 classic, yet the Friendly Fires version is something that would sound perfect in Fabric in 2019. The lyrics are almost a cry for help, but even the most negatively lyricised song by Friendly Fires comes across as a mid-August bop.

Towards the end, they again slow it down a little with Cry Wolf before blasting into the final two explosions of beats with Almost Midnight and Run The Wild Flowers. In a time in which we are fed negativity from all directions, it is important that we can find ways to escape. Inflorescent is a form of escape. A joy. Fun. It was worth the wait.