Starting the album is a song that is different to the darker sound of White Lies, it is a song about wanting to be used by someone, just so the person can connect with someone and slightly getting off on being a doormat. Being played over a song that would not be out of place on a Killers or New Order record, it is almost sunshine for this band. It is slightly disconcerting, but the lyrical content keeps those fears at bay; but the fade out finish was unexpected, again it was out of place and this is just the first song of the album.
02 – Morning in LA
A song about being in Los Angeles, in pain and needing to talk to people on the other side of the world, feeling isolation and lost in the city of dreams. It is a dark number, one that is covered over by the sound of the music which is once again a ray of sunshine; it is all quite subverted and out of context, I like it as it is not your straight forward sound and they are no longer just darker than dark synth pop straight away. Interesting, but is it actually moving the sound of White Lies forward?
03 – Hold Back Your Love
Now this one is very surreal, when it started I thought it was Go West or some other 80’s band as the sound is so retro it is starting to hurt. A song that is about wanting to deny love, to see if you can cope without it is a strange beast at the best of times – this one is a massive contrast of style and content and it is once again going again both pop and indie sensibilities, it is a strange one that does not make much sense in places for me.
04 – Don’t Want to Feel it All
Slow and moody, ‘Don’t Want to Feel it All’ is a song about having your own problems and then having relationship issues at the same time, about not having the capability to deal with everything at once and being scared that you will lose everything. Musically, it is more 80’s synth and a change from their earlier style, but it is a song that reminds me of ‘Bigger Than Us’ as it aims for the heart and tries to explain a complex situation. Definitely one of the better tracks of the album.
05 – Is My Love Enough?
Heavy electronic bass, light and dancing synth and a Pet Shop Boys desire to make pop music dark again, ‘Is My Love Enough?’ is a song that reminds me of the sound that Fun were peddling a few years back; the thing is, I was not a fan of that band and the same can be said for this song. It is trying a little too hard to sound like the original deal, it does not reach that goal and it is definitely a poor choice for the album.
06 – Summer Didn’t Change a Thing
Another of the better songs of the album; a tune about time not making things better, the band are in moodier territory once again and it seems more natural and organic on this number. It does not feel forced and even with a synth heavier sound, the music is still a black heartbeat. Only thing that takes it down a mark or two, another sodding fade out ending, hated them as a kid, not liking them any more as an adult.
07 – Swing
I will make this one brief – a song about swinging from left to right and being unable to control how you feel about love, musically for the most part it is high end synth that almost got the worst song of the album; the ending rising bridge saves it though as it digs into your brain, but this is the only saving grace on this number.
08 – Come On
The band are saying there is something wrong, they are not lying on that one. It is a number that is just far too calculated and light as well, imagine ‘Battle Born’ Killers with more guitars and you are about there. Not a song that works for me, so I will more onto the next one.
09 – Right Place
The penultimate song of the album is ‘Right Place’ and it is a song that has self-doubt at the beginning of the number and at this point it is starting to feel like a self-fulfilling number, saying how they are not going to miss it when it stops, I am feeling the same as well – sorry, but this is another filler track by the standards that White Lies have set themselves with their other releases. Time to more on again.
10 – Don’t Fall
Ending the album is a slow and clunking ‘Don’t Fall’ that once again does not feel nature to these ears. It is a song about being given support and help, a message which is good to hear for obvious reasons. However, the music does not match the lyrics as it feels like another 80’s rehash and it ends this album on a low note.
What happened here? Here is an album I should be loving as it is a synth album and I am struggling with it, it feels a little false and too calculated. Lyrically it is still as black as midnight, but musically it is like a Black Metal band releasing an album of lute covers. Now, regular readers of this blog will know I love 80’s synth, I love indie synth, I really like White Lies as well; but for a lot of this album, it feels force and not natural, as if they are chasing something and it is long past. In some places, it really does work, such as on tracks like ‘Don’t Want to Feel it All’ and ‘Summer Didn’t Change a Thing’ are really good songs, but other tracks are average at best and some are just poor. It is not an album that I would recommend, there has been better releases in this genre as well and it feels a little bit throwaway. File under – disappointing.
4 out of ten – Well it is alright, but still....
Top track – Don’t Want to Feel It All
You can purchase Friends on Amazon here.