Any school of thought that placed Friendly Fires in the traditional indie brigade is completely obliterated on the band’s second album Pala. The disco, funk and electronic influences from their self-titled debut album now exist in marquee above the band in big pop neon letters that say “Time to Party!”
Pala takes its title from the fictional island in Aldous Huxley’s novel Island, a book which features psychedelic drugs, trance states and concepts of utopian living; ideas analogous to clubbing’s enlightened mindset in times past. The video for Pala’s opening song and first single ‘Live Those Days Tonight’ reinforces the theme as a montage of various monged out ravers having it large flash by. On ‘Pull Me Back To Earth’ we get the lyric “I can’t see straight I’m tripping”. For this is Friendly Fires’ modus operandi in 2011: to abolish the concept of the “good old days” of dance music by providing a soundtrack to dance’s present. Best of all, they do it with giant pop choruses.
There’s no escaping the summer holiday vibes that permeate Pala. Sunsets, shores, steel drums, euphoric synthesizers, oceanfloors and “the sun kissing my face”.‘Hawaiian Air’ concerns itself with that oft-ignored holiday feeling, the fear of flying, destination Honolulu, with lyrics like “taking a ride to another clime”, “skipping the meal for a G&T”, “watching a film with a talking dog” and trying not to worry about crashing until the chorus “Touching down / Hit the ground / I breathe new air / Can I take this all in?”. An admirable topic for a pop song.
Apart from hedonism and having a good old fashioned worry, the other dominant theme on Pala is love lust, and lyrics about the desire to “feel true love” that could apply to holiday romances. There are four songs here which could have summer anthem status – ‘Hawaiian Air’, ‘Live Those Days Tonight’, the funky ‘Running Away’ and ‘Hurting’, all notable for their whopper head-rush choruses.
Pala is the sound of a band that are channeling their inner Wham and Duran Duran while also taking cues from Boards Of Canada, chillwave and ravetastic synths. Ed McFarlane’s dancing may have looked a bit silly the first time around but he’s now got the escapist pop songs to back it up.