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Friendly Fires Pala
Released 13 May 2011
Producer Friendly Fires, Paul Epworth
Label XL Recordings
Length 44:25
Genre Alternative dance, indie
Website www.wearefriendlyfires.com

It's been nearly three years since Friendly Fires released their self titled debut. That album was deservingly nominated for the prestigious Mercury Music prise, ultimately losing out in a year that contained a surprisingly strong field. I guess when you receive such critical acclaim it must be hard to construct that difficult second album, particularly when you'd spent most of you're adolescence writing your debut. Pala was never going to be a rushed affair, especially when you consider everything that goes into making a Friendly Fires record. What exactly this entails is the band basically locking themselves away in Ed Macfarlane's (lead singer) parents' garage and making some delightful dance punk. And Friendly Fires are very particular about their brand of dance punk, continually layering their music and fine tuning for optimum results. A three year wait for this record seems just about right. But how does it compare to their first?

If you're a Friendly Fires fan you won't be disappointed with Pala as it echoes the same themes and tones as its predecessor. In many ways Pala really does seem like a sequel, following the same formula as Friendly Fires original; opening full of life, then reducing tempo midway only to rebuild momentum by the finale so as to have come full circle. More important is the fact that the band have managed to produce an album’s worth of songs that are every bit as infectious as Ed MacFarlane's dance moves. As the album's first track and lead single 'Live Those Days Tonight' kicks off it's clear Friendly Fires haven't lost their ability to compose catchy hooks dripping in  heavy paced melodic beats. Album highlights include the fleshy drum fuelled 'Show Me Lights', or the refreshing, washed up on shore sounding 'Pull Me Back To Earth'. Every track could be slotted into any capable DJ's set. The subject matter hasn't changed either with fantastical true love at the heart of most songs. They've even included their trademark region song, in this case Hawaii is their muse, a song that is surely a companion piece to the song 'Paris' from their first album.

The only real negative I can afford this album would be that none of the songs here for me have the longevity of Friendly Fires stronger tracks from their debut. Don't get me wrong Pala is a weak track free zone but for me nothing quite hits the standards set by 'Jump In The Pool', 'Paris', or 'Skeleton Boy's' 7 inch single version. Pala seems like a more complete record than the first album though, each song fitting seamlessly into the next, never seeming out of place, never a puzzling inclusion. It's also less manic than their self titled debut, songs tend to linger a little more than previously, not necessarily slower in tempo but now in less of a rush to finish.

On Pala, Friendly Fires are as inventive and enigmatic as ever. How they go about constructing their multifaceted music is at times boggling and always enjoyable. Here’s hoping it's not another three years before we see a follow up.

- David Prendergast