Friends : Manifest!
Friends put style firmly ahead of substance with their effervescent yet strangely empty debut album Manifest! It initially wallops you with a big sugar hit, but once the sweetness has worn off, it all starts to grate on your nerves a little.
Things start smoothly enough with some fairly basic demands being set up as part of the Brooklyn quintet’s manifest. Song with titles like ‘I want to be your friend’ and ‘I want you to come over to my house’ are testament to this, sung with immediate, undemanding melodies. As the album progresses, the sounds get more eclectic and each of the songs’ influences ring all too loud and clear. The raw Ruins sticks out like a sore thumb in the middle of the album - all ‘riot grrrl’ moans and groans. I’m His Girl clearly uses Gwen Stefani’s Hollaback Girl as its template, while Va Fan Gor Du pays tribute to old-school hip-hop with its Missy Elliot-esque chanting chorus. Stay Dreaming tries fusing Cocteau Twins with The Sugarcubes and succeeds in making no impact whatsoever. Grand finale Mind Control taps into Chic-style funk, but at least has a mind of its own and gets a boost by an untamed performance from lead vocalist Samantha Urbani.
Manifest! is the sound of a band trying on an assortment of clothes, but changing three times before they get to the front door. It seems Friends don’t like committing to anything for too long or putting much effort into trying anything original. Originality is hard to come by, so it is churlish to complain about this alone; more problematic is the schizophrenic mess of genres and the over-thought delivery of some rather simplistic reinterpretations. I’m all for party music and good times, but Friends’ form of fun sounds somewhat forced.
BY CHRIS GIRDLER
Best Track: Mind Control
If You Like These, You’ll Like This: Cults CULTS, Here We Are CITIZENS
In A Word: Shallow