Friends - Manifest!
Friends made things quite difficult for themselves from the off. Calling your band after one of the most popular, long-running TV shows sets quite a hoop to jump through, to gain any kind of brand recognition above the namesake with immense amounts of notoriety. But then again, Friends clearly don't want to be a brand, they just want to have a good time and fight for what's right, if their most notable single and many people's introduction to the band 'I'm His Girl' is to be believed. It was quite a profound statement of intent when it first dropped, following on from the languid more inconsequential first recording 'Friend Crush', the track drips with badass attitude via Gwen Stefani's 'Hollaback Girl', courtesy of feisty frontwoman Samantha Urbani parading through Brooklyn in the video doling out her empowering mantra for people to adopt more accepting relationships; "if you love someone, let them be free, I know I don't want no one suffocating me, don't settle for ownership make it deep, if you love someone it should feel good to let them breath." The fact 'I'm His Girl' is so infectious, energetic and 'buzz-worthy', has set even higher expectations for this, their debut record Manifest! But do they live up to the hype?
Well, there's no simple answer to that as Manifest! is an incredibly mixed record. On the one hand we have the 'Friend Crush' type songs, the more laidback 'too cool to really care or write lyrics with any meaning' tracks. Early track Sorry for instance is based around a simple percussive rhythm and banal repeated lyrics like "I want you to come over to my house," for followers of friends output so far it's by far one of their laziest tracks, with similarities able to be drawn with the likes of Tennis. 'Home' follows and is a slight improvement after a shaky opening 2 tracks, as some North American Scum style funk underpins, a more 60s girls group leaning vocal performance . It sounds promising, but just loops without any real staying power.
A Cyndi Lauper side attempts to wriggle free from Samantha on other tracks such as 'A Thing Like Thi's, but ultimately lacks any drive or energy to warrant comparisons the band have been getting with the likes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It's this kind of willing within the listener, that friends could be doing just that little bit more with their songs (a bit more oomph or a catchier hook wouldn't go a miss quite often) that makes moments of the record slightly underwhelming, certainly in comparison to the top calibre singles we know they're capable of. It also becomes apparent that Friends are at their best when they're being a little bit louder and more in your face.
This energy backfires once on the album on 'Ruins', which instead comes across as a disregarded Dandi Wind demo, but elsewhere sounds exciting and straight up funky (I hate using that word, but it's appropriate). 'A Light' for instance is top quality quick-fix pop with a lot of movement, and could easily make another friends single, but then we get to the last two songs on the album and everything starts to make sense, and gets you properly moving to friends' rhythm.
'Van Fan Gor Du' sounds like firstt album CSS, and gives Friends an identity away other more temporary buzz bands of their ilk like Best Coast, Dum Dum Girls or Tennis. Samantha really lets out her inner diva (which is fully on display at the band's live shows and utterly captivating) making her presence known. It feels like she actually has something to say, as she teases "hey hey, do I give you that naughty feeling?" It screams 'we are cool, and having fun' like little else does on this album and is just resolution for people who expected a lot off the back of 'I'm His Girl'.
But then right at the end, Friends really let rip with 'Mind Control'. It frankly completely shits on everything else energy wise and displays fully for all to see that this band have the potential to be an explosively good prospect for the future. It's catchy as hell, inventive, full of life and is unequivocally sexy. It just makes you want to go out into the streets, start a revolution and scream "Take that society!," as Samantha convinces us that we're merely brainwashed government puppets.
Manifest! provides snippets of brilliance throughout, but let's itself down royally in terms of energy consistency. There's no doubt that Friends are a really exciting band, but the public may require further convincing than a couple of awe-inspiringly catchy singles to prove it their worth. p>