Comebacks can be an overrated marketing scheme. Take a break when trends change and fans grow bored of you and then return with a lot of hype. However, there’s something genuinely special about the reunion of Friendly Fires. This is not only because it makes some music nerds reminisce about the exciting 2007/2008 era of indie (the beginnings of MGMT, Vampire Weekend, Klaxons et al.) but there’s a sense that Friendly Fires themselves are wholeheartedly glee about making music together once again after an 8-year absence.
The impression that this 3rd album is incredibly important to them stems from their choice of music inspirations but initially from the new album’s title Inflorescent. The word describes the arrangement and characteristics of a flower from its petals to its branches and was chosen to symbolize the re-unified music creation of the trio’s skills – feeling relieved to be a band again after a hiatus where vocalist Ed McFarlane, drummer Jack Savidge and guitarist Edd Gibson pursued other projects. It’s as if the three musicians were never apart as Inflorescent contains a similar uplifting positive energy and exciting tropical-dance rhythms as their earlier work. It’s once again summer breeze anthems that’s purpose is to spark euphoria, celebratory spirit and self confidence. Something we all need from time to time.
The song ‘Love Like Waves’ – which has elements of Real Lies‘s 1990’s synth-pop nostalgia – inspired their resurgence because some of the lyrics were written during the making of the previous 2011 Pala record and because it received great feedback from critics and fans upon it’s release. It represents the album well, in that it’s incredibly catchy, memorable, hook-filled and impossible not to dance to.
Due to Ed McFarlane’s vocal style and the deep house moments, Inflorescent occasionally sounds like George Michael collaborating with Disclosure (note that Disclosure co-produced the Friendly Fires‘ single ‘Heaven Let Me In’). The trumpety opening track ‘Can’t Wait Forever’ – which lyrics supposedly are about them restarting the band – is particularly reminiscent of Wham’s ‘Club Tropicana’. Furthermore, a praiseworthy element to the new record is how Friendly Fires display their other music inspirations. The James Ford-produced ‘Silhouettes’ (one of many tracks in which McFarlane scat-sings “ba-da-da-da”) is inspired by Brazilian disco, ‘Offline’ contains a sample of ‘Chega Mais’ by the 1970’s/1980’s Rio de Janeiro funk collective Banda Black Trio because Friendly Fires confessed in an interview that they believe Brazilians are the best at making celebratory music, while ‘Lack of Love’ is a reinterpreted yet mostly identical cover of an acid house track originally by Charles B and Adonis from 1988 – a song that’s always inspired the group.
Inflorescent isn’t consistently great lyrically but it aims to connect with listeners with words about maintaining one’s self-dignity and self-motivation in troubled relationships and testing times. Highlights include ‘Heaven Let Me In’s message of accepting one’s imperfections: “To free my soul. You know that I’m fine. With the things that I can’t control” and ‘Cry Wolf’s confrontation of romantic games: “I’ve come to terms that we won’t ever be a thing. So why are your eyes on me when you’re kissing him?”As well as ‘Sleeptalking’‘s intriguing and mysterious lyrics about truthfulness set to a silky nocturnal vibe: “While you sleep. You tell me how you really feel. In another world, where nothing’s left unspoken” and the aforementioned ‘Offline’ which aims to persuade newer generations to ignore the abundance of internet distractions and connect with life and people in a more productive way: “I feel like going offline. Breaking bad habits, one at a time. I think it’s worth another try. Got a new direction, aim for the sky.”
It’s been 11 years since Friendly Fires‘ self titled record, yet they sound just as vibrant, invigorated and motivated as they once were and ‘Inflorescent ‘is a fun album that promotes this hedonistic mentality to their audience rather well.