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Friendly Fires: Pala

B+

Friendly Fires

Album: Pala
Label: XL

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Crowing about being heavily influenced by ’80s teen idols like New Kids On The Block might be a smug pose to strike, but Britain’s Friendly Fires somehow makes it look good. Even more than 2008’s self-titled debut, which baited its dance-floor hooks with morsels of Duran Duran and Franz Ferdinand, Pala feels like a great shindig-starter, complete with wiggly, disco basslines and subtext-free lyrics like “All I want is to feel true love.” The sentiment is a little clunky, but who cares, when the songs are daubed with such a sticky, shiny coat of pop gloss? Not to mention tricked out with enough blink-and-you-miss-it instrumentation to make previous efforts sound practically minimalist by comparison. While those layers of noise are consistently surprising—the nods to Daft Punk on “Hurting,” the antisocial “Born Under Punches” rhythms on “True Love”—the million shrink-then-explode moments can feel a bit mechanical. The title track is perfectly placed, then, both to provide a break from the endlessly propulsive beats, and as proof that Friendly Fires can replicate Junior Boys’ sexy sulk when it’s needed. More than just the band’s slowest song to date, it’s also a sobering reminder that sometimes it’s what’s waiting at home—more than what’s on the dance floor—that keeps us partying until dawn.