‘Pretty Great’, Fickle Friends
‘Are We Gonna Be Alright?’ is both the name of and the question asked by Fickle Friends’ latest album. On first listen, the introspective title doesn’t quite line up with the new release, which swims through pools of thick, sugary pop syrup and experimentally dips its toes into puddles of post-punk rock, a new move for a historically synth-pop band. The question’s plural pronoun, which gathers both you and the four Fickle Friends into a communal ‘we’, resolves that conflict. An album for late nights, spent out on the town or questioning your place in the universe, ‘Are We Gonna Be Alright?’ offers no answer to existential questions. Instead, the album offers a place to dance them out, with the knowledge you’re not alone in asking them. Standout track and pop masterclass ‘Pretty Great’ is the best place to do just that.
While the album is only their second, Fickle Friends are no new kids on the block. Future frontwoman Natassja Shiner met Sam Morris (drums) while attending the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts – in 2013, a year later, their paths collided with Harry Herrington (bass and backing vocals) and Jack Wilson (keyboard) at BIMM Brighton, and thus Fickle Friends was born. After playing 53 festivals in just two years and recording their 2018 debut album ‘You Are Someone Else’ in LA, the band’s fan base was impatient for the next.
‘Are We Gonna Be Alright?’ is perhaps not quite what they were expecting. While certainty not a far cry from the bouncy pop Fickle Friends have come to be known from, the introduction of heavier riffs and screeching guitar, however, have brought something new to the table. This new sound is a sort of manicured rock – noticeably synthetic, sure, but also doubtlessly fun. While the chugging electric rhythm of ‘Not Okay’ and the Paramore-esque guitar riff of ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’ is different, both still possess the ear-wormy dance-ability that is so recognizably Fickle Friends.
Where the album succeeds the most is the tracks that completely give themselves to exuberant, 80’s-inspired pop – ‘Pretty Great’ does just that. A story as old as time, Natassja’s breathy vocal’s recount a night of (potential) love at first sight – ‘Kissed someone at a party’, ‘Oh what was their name? ‘Cause I drank too much and got carried away’. The euphoria of teenage exploits elevates an already upbeat track to stratospheric heights.
The music video only heightens this playfulness. A love story born out of a shared phone charger, it features a couple whose eyes lock, surrounded by a crowd of partygoers glued to their phones. Fickle Friends, meanwhile, sit as benevolent and Cupid-like gods in an upstairs bedroom. As they lounge on soft furnishings the track is firmly placed in a domain of inexperienced teenage joviality.
Ricocheting synths skip though the intro, grabbing the listener like an excited audience member who drags their friend to the barrier. The springy bass, which only momentarily pauses for the pre-chorus, beckons even the most resistance listener to the dance floor. The chorus is irresistible catchy, demanding to be sung on the bus, in the supermarket and in the shower. Ultimately, the track evidences Fickle Friends’ ability to elicit sonic euphoria, and their categorical talent in doing so.
Words by Kate Bowie