Review | Friendly Fires | Pala

Friendly Fires

in•die \in-dê\adj + pop \päp\n

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 05.25.11

“Up in the sky Honolulu bound / steel guitars and the mele sound,” sings Friendly Fires’ Ed Macfarlane on “Hawaiian Air.” The tale of an island journey, the song exudes 80-degree weather, swaying palm trees and a smiling hula girl greeting you with a lei when you land. The runaway hit from the Fires’ sophomore LP, it’s destined to be a highlight of this summer’s festival season and it embodies the sun kissed warmth that dominates the record.

Brighter and poppier than the band’s 2008 self-titled debut, Pala borrows its name from the utopian atoll in Aldous Huxley’s The Island. And like its populace, this album ditches the uncertainty and heartbreak of the past to seize the moment and live a more carefree existence. Songs like “Live Those Days Tonight” and “Show Me Lights,” with the line “I’ve got to make the most of this before they cut the lights,” are a testament to this.

But that’s the only glaring departure for Friendly Fires. This trio from St. Alban, just north of London, makes no secret of its fondness for electronic sounds and the synth-heavy rave element remains intact here. Disco-sampling and with a punchy French house feel, “Hurting” would be right at home on indie dance label Kitsuné. It’d also be right at home in the ‘80s; the band openly admits they looked to the decade for its increased pop flair. 

On “True Love” the Rapture-like dance punk that was so prominent on Friendly Fires resurfaces and the result sounds like a jam session with the Talking Heads, George Clinton and Earth, Wind and Fire. Songs like “Blue Cassette” and “Pull Me Back to Earth” refresh the tropical drum propulsiveness of past hits like “Jump in the Pool” and “Paris,” and do so without seeming like retreads. These boys have cornered the market on Balearic indie dance, and with Pala they’ve confirmed that summer’s here in the best possible way.

—Joshua P. Ferguson


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