On their self-titled debut, Friendly Fires serve up a very slick -- and very appealing -- mix of synth pop and dance-rock with unexpected nods to shoegaze that suggest their hard-edged, nu-rave sound might blur into something more interesting. The band crafts a big, hooky sound that loves melody, rhythms, and choruses equally, especially on "Jump in the Pool," which is just as fun and refreshing as its title suggests (the tropical-sounding drum breaks don't hurt), and "In the Hospital," a sleek track that sounds like the D.F.A. collaborating with Franz Ferdinand on an especially poppy day. For the rest of Friendly Fires, the band switches between these two approaches, and while they do a pretty good job of bringing the punk-funk, particularly on "Lovesick," this is very familiar territory that the band doesn't embellish much -- and "On Board" and "Photobooth" narrowly avoid coming off as parodies of that sound. Friendly Fires are more convincing, and more intriguing, when they give into their lush pop side. "Strobe"'s aptly shimmering guitars, flickering keyboards, and almost ridiculously pretty melody nod to M83 and New Order, and the band saves the best for last with "Ex Lover," which pits steep, tone-bending guitars and sleepy vocals against brisk dance beats, suggesting what Chapterhouse might have sounded like if they were actually influenced by house. As it stands, Friendly Fires seem to be influenced by dream pop and whatever trend is big in dance music -- "Skeleton Boy"'s bleepy keyboards borrow from the 8-bit craze -- but when the results are as immediate as this album is at its best, it's hard to slam them too much for being derivative; better just to enjoy Friendly Fires as fleeting fun.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares