Fanfarlo - Let's Go Extinct
Although third album Let's Go Extinct is unlikely to bring Fanfarlo to a stadium near you, it should hopefully strengthen the band's deserved fanbase. Skim the pre-release press surrounding the album, you'd be forgiven for being put off: a record seeking to untangle the great philosophical knot of existence and evolution, inspired just as much by the theory of panspermia as it is by 'Young Americans' and Kurt Vonnegut, and made by a London-based outfit whose eclectic output thus far has made them difficult to categorise. However, it's this sense of unpredictability that, from this potentially pretentious melting pot, fuels a set of ten pop songs shaped by solid song craft.
Opening gambit 'Life In The Sky' shares the angular rhythm favoured by indie-rock competitors back when Fanfarlo debuted in 2006, but aims for the promise of prog beyond the stars as it develops, whilst simultaneously showcasing core elements of the band's DNA: the strong presence of frontman and mastermind Simon Balthazar, his delivery intertwined with female vocals a la Arcade Fire, and the same ambition of that band where instrumentation is concerned, the standard guitar/drums/keys setup coloured by layers of brass, strings and - as the album progresses - everything from woodwind to cowbell.
Most importantly, despite the experimentation on display, it's a palatable listen and you can track a thread of 80s influences as you orbit. Exhibit A: 'Cell Song', which opens with a forgotten Moroder synth line before blossoming into last-reel John Hughes happy/sad euphoria ("We made a promise but one day we'll fall apart"). Meanwhile, 'A Distance' recalls Talking Heads with not only its 'Once In A Lifetime' bass but also Balthazar's uncanny evocation of Byrne on the main hook, and 'We're the Future' is synth-pop as good as anything on the Chvrches album that looks further back with its melodic Fleetwood Mac-style undertones.
Touchstones may be there, but the record possesses its own identity with a playfulness that incorporates earworm steel drum riffs on 'Landlocked', perfectly lovely dream pop in the form of the title track and ‘Myth Of Myself (A Ruse To Exploit Our Weaknesses)’, and potential Marmite flavours in detours such as the overly dramatic sign-off of 'Painting With Life'. However, the ambition here is to be commended and fans of sincere orchestral indie-pop (see Stars, The Dears, etc.) would be wise to become Fanfarlo's latest fan.