Fenech-Soler - ZILLA (So Recordings)

Fenech-Soler – ZILLA (So Recordings)

The fact that there’s even a third Fenech-Soler album, to begin with, is a surprise in itself. Instead of capitalising on the momentum generated by their ambitious second album ‘Rituals‘ in 2013, they remained relatively quiet for a few years and seemed to have gone the way of their contemporaries Friendly Fires and Delphic: no official break-up statement, but continuous radio silence. Last September, the news that half the band (drummer Andrew Lindsay and, awkwardly enough, bassist Daniel Fenech-Soler) were no longer members of F-S went some way toward explaining said radio silence.

Surprisingly, remaining members Ben and Ross Duffy (vocals and guitar, respectively) elected to continue the band as a duo. The parting was amicable (no euphemistic ‘musical differences’) and the slimmed-down line-up almost had album three in the can. ‘ZILLA‘ (‘named for a close friend,’ according to the band) is the product of a reinvigorated duo. While their first two records sometimes came across as slightly unfocused, their latest effort benefits from the soul-searching and skill-honing they needed to do after losing Lindsay and Daniel F-S.

Kicking off with the staccato synths and soaring harmonies of ‘Kaleidoscope‘, the album wastes no time in reintroducing the duo’s musical chemistry, with earworm hooks and forceful percussion coming to the fore on ‘Late Night TV‘ and ‘Cold Light‘, the latter featuring Ben’s best impression of Jack Steadman, late of Bombay Bicycle Club; indeed, with more esoteric production it would slot right in on the back half of ‘A Different Kind of Fix‘. That song’s payoff, around three minutes in, transforms it from a brooding slow-burner into a cathartic rave-up that’s just begging to be dropped into their live sets at the earliest opportunity.

There’s enough variety across the album’s 49 minutes to gain them plenty of new fans, not to mention tempt back older ones who might approach the new material with hesitancy. ‘Undercover‘ has ‘sleeper hit’ written all over it, its needling piano hook leading into a fully-realised chorus that’s one of the most impactful moments on a record that’s not exactly lacking the wow factor. The push and pull between speaker-rattling grandeur and more delicate offerings is more pronounced than on previous records, and the album’s flow is improved further by the pair of title-track instrumentals that appear at key points.

Zilla I‘ offers a breather before morphing into the slow-build wall of noise that segues into ‘Grace‘; and its counterpart ‘Zilla II‘ takes things down a more expressive path, running with the former’s melody and embellishing it with urgent, pounding drums and a vocal hook suited to stadia, before ‘Be Someone‘ and ‘From Afar‘ bring the record to a close, the latter capping off Fenech-Soler’s comeback album in fine style. Once again, the moment is theirs to seize: down two members, yet sounding more confident than ever. Here’s hoping third time really is the charm.

ZILLA is released on the 3rd of February through So Recordings.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.