LateNightTales - Friendly Fires Album Review
Late Night Tales has been spinning us the finest funky throwback tunes for some years now and the artists the series has offered the opportunity to curate to us over time have always been interesting, surprising, and varied from the likes of The Flaming Lips to Groove Armada and even Matt Helders (Arctic Monkeys). As the series reaches its 30th, St Alban's intellectually toe-tapping Friendly Fires have the perfect combo of head, heart, and feet to lead us into our dreams.
While the trio have always nicely fit into the 'band' label their records clearly demonstrate an affinity towards the forces that drive dance and techno as well as current guitar band trends. Their status as one of the great crossover bands of modern times was confirmed upon the release of 2011's Pala which saw their influences from bands like Talking Heads blended with the technical dance of Boards Of Canada and the pristine production standards of modern heavyweight Timbaland. As such then their Late Night Tales outing is packed full of classic disco romps such as Dennis Parker's 'Like An Eagle', the lo-fi modern dub of SBTRKT who offers us the most recognisable track here in the form of 'Hold On' and that's not to forget all the bombastic, out-there pop that's clearly been a massive stimulus in the direction of Friendly Fires' sound.
As it says on the tin, this is a record to be played as your night winds down and, coming in at an impressive 78 minutes, it's an LP worthy of the name. Not to subdue you too early then, the first third of the record focuses on this disco element with the likes of Joe Simon's 'Love Vibration', some Dutch disco from Renee and of course the funky 'Carry On Turn Me On' by Space. It's a great heated start to get the blood pumping when you return post-rave to your cold living room with eight people you don't know who are chewing their cheeks furiously. As the conversation inevitably turns madly theoretical the music too morphs into some of today's finest art-poppers (Bibio - 'Don't Summarise My Summer Eyes') and then into the warm fuzzy blanket of the shoegaze scene and the likes of the Cocteau Twins' haunting pop number, 'Cherry Coloured Funk'. What's so good about compilations like Late Night Tales is it gives lost classics, up and comers, and songs you've simply never heard before the chance to plant their seed in you thanks to a band you already have some sort of trust in.
The lads in Friendly Fires wear their interests and inspirations proudly here and when it's this good there's no need to hide. As the songs slide seamlessly into place one after another the glistening guitars of Slowdive washing over you and into the placating acoustic tones and light tinkling of Olivia Newton John's 'Love Song' the boys experience on the DJ circuit has never been clearer or more easy going. One of the smoothest examples of this on the record is in the boys extraordinary cover of 'Why Don't You Answer?' by Eberhard Schoener and Sting which sees them pad out the atmospheric minimalism of the original for a more modern more mainstream audience, not to mention Ed Macfarlane's vocals which are a stunning match for Sting. The way it so casually converts both from SBTRKT and then uses the opening sultry elegiac tones of Sonna's 'One Most Memorable' as an interlude to step into 'House Music Is A Controllable Desire You Can Own' by DJ Sprinkles is hideously clever.
By the time Benedict Cumberbatch is reading you the first part of 'Flat Of Angles' in the spoken word piece that now accompanies each record you'll be tightly tucked in and ready for his surprisingly rhythmic, enchanting, and non RP delivery of Simon Cleary's engrossing story. Who needs records when Late Night Tales are this good?
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