Fanfarlo – Let’s Go Extinct

The 405 say:

The title of Fanfarlo‘s third album Let’s Go Extinct seems to be in direct conflict with the lyric from the song ‘Shiny Things’ from their last album: “let’s not worry about going extinct.” This conflict crops up all over the Londoners’ new full-length, as they flit between expounding on life’s vitality and lamenting its limitations. And, it’s this conflict that seems to have energized the band into making their most confident and assured album yet.

Just by looking at the cover art and titles of Fanfarlo’s albums, from Reservoir to Rooms Filled With Light to Let’s Go Extinct, you can tell that they have upped the level of detail and concept in their work. The first line of the new album is “Coming from afar and heading for the sun / I think of us when we were molecules” and it features track titles like ‘Cell Song’ and ‘Painting With Life’. Their once bequiffed and presentable band leader Simon Balthazar is now long-haired and in press photos has the dead-eyed stare of someone who’s been living in the studio perfecting every last sound on this detailed album. The key point is that, despite the increased “seriousness” (for lack of a better term,) Fanfarlo have lost none of their ability in writing catchy, joyous and often marvelous pop songs.

Fanfarlo have always preferred taking the direct route to the listener’s heart, with most of their songs coming out of the gates in full swing with simple guitar and drums combining to push the songs forward – often with some resonant piano chords adding fortitude – to a graceful and catchy chorus. This remains the same on their third album, but the advancement comes in the ways that they’ve adorned the songs with heavy synthesizer use and other bells and whistles (literally) to add to their depth. The piercing synth that opens the album on ‘Life In The Sky’ sends it soring, and its continued careening around the place through the track’s gangbusting six minutes sends it into the stratosphere. The use of synth chopping and glittering its way through ‘A Distance’ pairs with the delightfully simple bassline to create an unforeseeably danceable little number. Studio wizardry abounds throughout the collection’s ten tracks.

Brass has always been a key part of Fanfarlo’s sound, but it’s never sounded as regal as it does when interjecting on the choruses of songs like ‘Landlocked’ or the delightfully baroque ‘Painting With Life’. Even more effective are the subtler ways horn and flute swan their way across the soundscapes of ‘Cell Song’ and ‘Ruse’ respectively, adding a much needed dash of sorrow to compliment Balthazar’s musings. All these elements are brought together in the album’s standout song ‘Grey and Gold’, which starts out with the confidence and slight darkness of R.E.M. in their ’90s pomp, but becomes unmistakably Fanfarlo as swaths of strings, drips of piano and a glaze of horn congeal into their most well-rounded song to date.

While some may still find Fanfarlo’s sound too inoffensive to get its hooks in under their skin, Let’s Go Extinct is an undeniably ambitious, energetic and bombastic effort. From a band that seems to be forever on the precipice of finding a larger audience, the album’s title could be taken as a mission statement. They’ve gone all-out this time, in a death or glory moment, and there certainly seems to be enough here for them to reach that latter status. Now it just has to find the right ears to make it so.

Rating: 8/10

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