After an eight-year break, Friendly Fires are back and in love with cheesy ‘80s shite more than ever. If their last outing, 2011’s excellent Pala, left us wondering where Friendly Fires see themselves in 10 years’ time, Inflorescent is the answer: all-out pop. The narrative that follows Friendly Fires, this Hawaiian-shirted, roller skatin’ down Miami beach with a piña colada vibe, is all good review fodder, but put simply Inflorescent is fairly ordinary pop music & nothing more. We’re now in Years & Years or Bastille territory.
While artists frequently rework the electronic & post-punk ‘80s with great results, Friendly Fires seem intent on reworking the God-awful manufactured pop '80s that nobody misses or asked for. They teased it with Pala & got away with it. Here they push their luck.
Let’s be positive for a moment. Lead singles ‘Heaven Let Me In’ & ‘Silhouettes’ are both pretty strong. More out of the Pala handbook, they’re safer territory and far and away the best Inflorescent has to offer. That they were the lead singles might tell its own story.
Most other tracks are, at best, average if not altogether anonymous. ‘Sleeptalking’ and ‘Kiss And Rewind’ are two particularly poor examples to pick on. The latter is straight-up George Michael karaoke. No, I'm sorry, not for the band who gave us ‘Paris’ & ‘Jump In The Pool’, thanks. ‘Lack Of Love’ has a grooving Ibiza bassline that is as close to another highlight as we get. Another lead single ‘Run The Wild Flowers’ is a decent album closer and at least sounds something like Friendly Fires, though would pale into significance next to a 2008 Friendly Fires.
The overall feeling after listening to Inflorescent isn’t disappointment. More confusion. Nothing for eight years and then...this is it? Inflorescent isn’t awful. It just feels purposeless. You could have a dance to it after a few piña coladas, but probably not more than once.