Cast your minds back almost a decade, dear readers, to a far simpler time. Back then, most people’s idea of a musical catastrophe was Jack Peñate and Team Waterpolo clashing at Underage Festival, the plimsoll-prints of New Young Pony Club and Klaxons led the way. In 2008, Friendly Fires followed, putting a new spin on a well-trodden path. Ed MacFarlane and co singlehandedly liberated the cowboy from the shackles of Cheeseville. They also twisted together some incredibly sharp pop song-writing chops with the achingly cool pulse of German techno labels like Kompakt, and the sheened-up funk of New York’s trendier-than-thou DFA. And whatsmore, they did it all from the most unlikely of places.
A commuter’s suburbia perched just outside London’s M25, St. Albans is hardly the first place you’d associate with the hedonistic pool parties and smoke-stained neon lights that tinge this golden debut; and that’s perhaps the point. Playing at being supermodels in an unnamed photobooth (presumably located in Hatfield Galleria) and promising to make it big before fleeing to Paris, ‘Friendly Fires’ is filled with lofty dreams of escapism, mentally trading in calm cul-de-sacs for ‘Jump In The Pool’’s endless “inner city sky-rise”.
“This record is obsessed with future pipedreams, breathlessly fleeing away from Friendly Fires’ biggest fear, monotony.”
When it’s landlocked back in Hertfordshire, though, this record is equally as obsessed with future pipedreams, breathlessly fleeing away from Friendly Fires’ biggest fear, monotony. “Let’s just hope we don’t get bored of each other,” Ed repeats over and over on ‘Bored of Each Other’, a minimal staccato-sharp groove giving way to agitated yowls of distorted guitar.
Gradually clambering its way up to the upper echelons of the album charts over the course of a year, the band scooped a Mercury Prize nod for their debut, and over time, Ed became as famed for his on-stage booty-shaking as he was for carving out taut, percussive grooves. Markedly unpretentious, fantastically minded to the extreme, and nerdily obsessed with decoding the key to making people dance, this album stands out as one of 2008’s best. It’s fair to say that Friendly Fires never topped their very first steps in the years following, and yes, though they remain signed to XL even now, they’ve sort of disappeared (though whispers of a return are afoot). But then again, whatever happens next, they gifted us this corker in the process.
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