So, they are back, with an album that was due out this summer, 'Beautiful You'. Earlier this year, we were treated to a compilation CD looking back at the entire career of this English band that have been active for more than 15 years. This new album, their first since 'Folk Songs' in 1995, finds them back as a duo again (the band have had several different members during the years) and as I haven't heard the 'Folk Songs' album, except the songs that appear also on the 'Best Of' CD, I really don't think I can compare this new release with the previous one.
What I can tell you though is that the album kicks off with one of the best songs on it, 'This Is The Start'. The first thing I think about here is Aztec Camera, as it's quite close to them musically. By that I don't mean the Camera's Postcard-releases, and not their latter day major label stints (like 'Somewhere In My Heart'), but something in between. As soon as singer William Jones opens his mouth, I can blend the Aztec Camera comparisons with some of the Divine Comedy. Mr Jones has a voice that really reminds me of Neil Hannon at times. Anyway, it's a great upbeat pop song, and I really love upbeat pop songs. Sadly, some songs on this album, however, are a bit too well-produced for me, and I think of the Prefab Sprout instead, a band that was fabulous at making great songs uninteresting with a radio friendly, polished production.
This said, Friends really knows how to write a great tune, and when it is at it's best, every song should fit on a 'The Sound of Leamington Spa' compilation CD that documents today's pop scene in the UK.
Pennyblackmusic online magazine, December 2004