As the title suggests, this disc collects all of the band's singles; I've got a couple of the earlier singles contained on here, but to be honest, I wasn't even aware that the group was still active (much less releasing this on the heels of their ninth album)! The six singles are presented in reverse chronological order, yet the disc somewhat fittingly starts with the band's classic 'You'll Never See That Summertime Again', which originally appeared on 1989's 'Roads Leading Everywhere' LP but was re-recorded a couple years ago for an EP. The song itself has been updated and improved, but still retains its original form and charm. The rest of that EP shows that the band sounds just as good today as they did when they released the brilliant 'Far And Away' single and first couple albums twenty years ago. And in between, you'll hear plenty of other excellent pop hits, including 'Special You', 'Foreign Money', 'The First Day Of Spring' and 'I'll Never See You', among others, though a couple of the b-sides weren't as timeless. This collection should delight any fan of jangly and bittersweet neo-acoustic pop in the vein of Pale Fountains, Lightning Seeds or Prefab Sprout!
Indiepages, 20 April 2009
As a fan of C86 indie-pop, I've tried to keep abreast of bands from that period and thanks to compilations on specialist labels such as Berlin's Firestation Records I have also managed to delve back in time and discover bands that had slipped through the net so to speak.
Friends are kind of one such example, with their excellent 'You'll Never See That Summertime Again' featuring on one of Firestation's numerous indie-pop CDs. On further inspection of my record collection, I even found a dusty old vinyl copy of one of Friends' early LPs, 'Roads Leading Everywhere', that I'd even forgotten I'd snapped up from some bargain bin many years before.
'Single Friends' is a timely collection of all six of the band's singles (they've mainly been an albums band) and B sides stretching back to the halcyon days of indie-pop, 1986 (when anoraks, fanzines and cardigans were all en vogue), right up to 2006, when the aforementioned, 'You'll Never See That Summertime Again' was finally given a single release 17 years after it was first recorded.
Friends are very much a typical C86 band, but more melodic than some of the shambling bands of the genre – a little like the Monochrome Set at their pop best.
Normally, the songs relegated to b-sides are hardly worth a second listen, but despite there being 14 B sides in this 20 song compilation, there is not a duff track anywhere to be heard. Granted the A sides, such as 'Special You' and 'The First Day Of Spring' are more instantly memorable, but 'This Is The Start' and 'Into The Sun' are equally impressive, while 'Village In My Mind' is quite beautiful and the semi-instrumental 'Downstream' very relaxing.
The band also showcase their acoustic side with stunning versions of 'Beautiful To Me' and 'Every Summer'.
On the back of this record, I won't forget about 'Roads Leading Everywhere' again.
Penny Black online magazine, February 2009
Back in about 1992, or something, I spent a good few months completely obsessed with the notion of Englishness. I remember moving to Nottingham and spending my dole days wandering around the older parts of the city pretending to appreciate the architecture and thinking that England was perhaps the most romantic place in the whole world. I think seeing Suede at Trent Poly did funny things to me.
I was, of course, being a massive fucking prick. But if I'd heard Friends back then, then I probably would've hunted them down, camped outside their front doors, and moved in with them. Friends, to me, are the most English band I've ever heard. And I mean that in a completely non-wanky non-1992 way.
Single Friends is a best of, basically. It comes only a few short years after the Best Of Friends compilation, but I don't care, because the songs here are, without exception, pretty amazing.
The first four songs on this album deserve a biscuit. You'll Never See That Summertime Again remains one of my favourite songs ever, and whilst it's the most maudlin pop song you'll hear for a long time, it's kicked up the arse by the triumphant This Is The Start. And then come two great big soppy love songs in Into The Sun and Beautiful To Me, which is an acoustic version. It's quite remarkable to think that all four of these songs were on one EP released back in 2006.
It's William's icy clear English singing voice that would've had the 19-year-old me in raptures. On songs like As Years Go By it sort of glides perfectly over the music, but he can also rough it up a bit, like on the James-y The First Day Of Spring – complete with feral yelp at the end!
But it's the drop dead melancholy that makes Friends special. The stiff upper lip of I'll Never See You drips with fake optimism after the end of a relationship, as William chirrups "We don't belong here any more". Before admitting that he might not survive another winter, before remembering that he doesn't need the other person at all. That's the spirit.
But then it's all undone with Wanting, which is heartbreak and longing set to an acoustic and synth background. Stunning, really.
Quite why Friends aren't celebrated more is beyond me. For sensitive souls everywhere there really isn't a more perfect band, and Single Friends is a glorious carnival of hope, loss, love and daydreams. Listen to Far And Away – an anthem for running away from your problems – and tell me different. You won't be able to.
A Layer Of Chips, 18 January 2009
ich freu mich!
diese compilation landete unverhofft kurz vor weihnachten bei mir im briefkasten. und tatsächlich war mir bisher nicht bewusst wie viele gute singles die in london beheimatete und mittlerweile über 20 jahre bestehende band mittlerweile veröffentlicht hat. sicherlich, bei den hier vollständig compilierten auskopplungen gibt es auch den ein oder anderen füller (b-seiten ;0). dafür aber neben ihrem 'you'll never see that summertime again' mindestens ebenso viele sehr gute meist klassische mitte-80er gitarrenpopfsongs, welche diese wiederveröffentlichung allemal rechtfertigen. ich sag doch, ich freu mich...
The Revolver Club, January 2009
William Jones muss ein irrsinniger Idealist sein. Mit seiner Band Friends nimmt er seit mehr als 20 Jahren kleine Pop-Perlen auf und veröffentlicht diese auf seinem eigenen Label Summerhouse Records. Mit dieser kleinen Plattenfirma verwaltet er auch den Backkatalog seiner und einer handvoll weitere Bands. Dass man so sicherlich nicht gerade reich werden kann, wird man sich vorstellen können - trotzdem macht er weiter.
Die Karriere von Friends begann 1986 mit der Single 'It's Getting Louder'. Der Song passt in das England der 1980er Jahre und in die beginnende Brit-Pop-Szene. Seichte, leicht melancholisch angehauchte Midtempo-Nummern, die zu jeder Zeit die Sonne aufgehen lassen. Hin und wieder verirrt sich ein Bläsersatz oder eine Frauenstimme in die Songs.
Interessant ist, dass die aktuellste Single auf dieser Zusammenstellung ('You'll Never See That Summertime Again') in etwa genauso klingt. Das ist zunächst einmal gar nicht so schlimm, da es sich einfach um wirklich schöne Songs handelt. Allerdings ist das Album mit 20 Songs einfach zu lang, um am Ende nicht von einer gewissen Monotonie überwältigt zu werden. Sei's drum, 'Single Friends' ist ein gutes Album für Endzwanziger, die sich noch einmal an die schöne Zeit der britischen Popmusik zurückversetzen und eine wirklich gute Platte für diejenigen unter Euch, die England vor dem großen Blur/Oasis-Hype kennen lernen möchten.
Crazewire, January 2009