• MONDAY, MAY 23, 2011

    • Posted by: Matt Howard

    Aldous Huxley's utopian conception of Island enthused psychedelic culture-heads with it's thematic grandeur, and most recently, it has sonically inspired the creation of Friendly Fires' dance-punk opus, Pala (which is the name of the fictional setting). The second LP, of the British synth-poppers, may lack the embedded themes of society, but it similarly administers a euphoric kick. "Moksha" meds aren't necessary to enjoy this decadent, audile trip, as Friendly Fires allure with inflicting synth beats and anthemic lyrics.

    Friendly Fires' self-titled debut was melancholically laden, and evidently, during the past three years, the group has escaped their sorrow. Pala, on the contrary, embodies a soulful rejuvenation of awesome exhilaration. Their celebratory ballads more accurately cater to their indie-styled, dance/house rhythms and beats. They successfully recapture the essences of the electro-club heydays party-enticing pop.

    Unlike most contemporary club tunes, Pala tracks are infused with lyrical astuteness. The album's opening track, "Live Those Days Tonight", partners Nintendo-synth with a poetic tale, that is unfamiliar to the dance floor. They acknowledge their disdain towards modern pop, as well as the common misconceptions of cliched musical productions. Lyrics like, "You claim your history/Is beyond a man like me," scorns both their critics and peers alike. The track's bellowing chants are a precursor to the ensuing, sonic insubordination.

    Every song on Pala elicits a vibes of dance music's past, and melds them with current production stylings. "Blue Cassette" samples 70s-styled brass and tribal thuds and taps, and incorporates a gripping pop chorus. In "Running Away", vocalist, Ed Macfarlane, hits Gibbs-ian highs that sear above funky bass lines and "Ring My Bell" chimes. Clap-choreographed "Hurting" follows a classic techno rhythm that is stripped and precisely reassembled by producer, Paul Epworth (Bloc Party, The Rapture).

    In "Hawaiian Air", Friendly Fires vacate the dance floor to take a summer holiday. Rather than flashing lights, the party is illuminated by warm sunrays. Its structure and flow evoke the sentimentality of the euphoric landscape that's being described. The chorus hits like a cooling dive into blue waters, and lyrics like "Skipping a meal for a G and T," will certainly induce envy.

    Pala shouldn't be pigeonholed as a "dance" album. Its instrumentation and structure provide it with explicit, indie-rock nuances. Rhythmically, it is similar to Cut Copy's latest club revival, Zonoscope. Macfarlane's vocal attributions closely resemble the searing croons of the Williams brothers in Doves. These elements are fused by psych-synth experimentation that mirrors the poppy sides of Yeasayer.

    Similar to Huxley's novel, Friendly Fires' Pala is worthy of a second read. It will undoubtedly be simply regarded as a dance-pop record, but its intricacies deserve great praise. Though dance floors possess their own, psych-inducing toxics, this album stimulates elation without a need for chemical assistance.

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    Concert Video: Friendly Fires at Le Poisson Rouge

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