It seems that post-punk/new wave acts made it okay to bring world music sounds into an already goofy set of music trends after the ’80s. Groups like The Clash, Oingo Boingo and Culture Club proved it wasn’t so goofy after all. These days, groups like Vampire Weekend and Local Natives bring back that yuppie-chic idea of reaching out past the suburbs and uniting everyone outside of a 4/4 drum beat. Friendly Fires’ Pala is every bit as uniting. Heck, it’s still even goofy at times.
Tracks like “Blue Casette” and “Hawaiian Air” have just enough rumbling toms and crinkly hi-hats to convince Joe Cardigan to bust out his Aloha shirt. “Hawaiian Air” showcases the group’s mastery of Beach Boys-like harmonies that so many acts these days try to achieve. Anyone can harmonize, but not everyone has Brian Wilson’s melodic chops. Fortunately, singer Ed Macfarlane is getting there. “Hurting,” meanwhile, is an ode to ’90s R&B with cheesy synths, maudlin lyrics and unabashed sexuality. The only thing missing is a Will Smith rap solo.
By the end of the album, one can’t really decide whether to enjoy Pala for what it is, a practice in regression therapy, or hope for something just a tad more sincere. “Helpless” ends the record by leaving the listener wondering what happened to the guys who gave us “Kiss of Life.” Regardless, Pala begs to be chopped, screwed and remixed to death for some club hits. A fun record is something everyone enjoys, but sometimes not for too long.