FIDLAR Almost Free
Published Feb 01, 2019Exploring a kind of open-ended, stylistic pastiche-pop-rock informed by more eagle-eyed, worldly songwriting, FIDLAR have expanded their sonic palette on a record that seems destined to be appreciated more with time.
Like the Clash and Beastie Boys before them, FIDLAR appear to have been drawn into music by the liberating aspects of punk and what it stands for. Their initial blasts of music, which among other things explore the joy and dark sides of debauchery and drug abuse, have been designated as irreverent contributions to skate and mall punk. In other words, beyond their rabid fan base, some critics have disdainfully written them off as cartoonishly one-dimensional.
Fair or not (and it likely isn't; the band's primary lyricists, Zac Carper and Elvis Kuehn, are often self-aware about human behaviour and employ humorous nuances in examining what it means to push one's limits in the name of escapism, and how such acts come perilously close to self-destruction), Almost Free, the band's third album, bears the scent of maturity.
Carper sounds truly anguished on "By Myself" and "Alcohol," an addict rolling on and off the wagon and longing for a drink (he wrote the latter during an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting). Kuehn is a more melodic scrutineer, decrying social media posturing on "Can't You See" and calling out a friend like Carper's drug-induced behaviour on "Flake" and "Kick," the latter homing in on the inherent cliches that being a rock'n'roll junkie advance (for good, "A Day in the Life" measure, Carper appears as the song's ravenous id, countering Kuehn's sobering ego).
Sonically, Almost Free is the fruit reaped from a post-Yeezus world. Beyond direct nods to Kanye West's frantic, lyrical display of monstrosity, bred by his own insecurity and mental health issues, FIDLAR adopt his free association musical style as well. "Flake" and "Too Real" employ rhythms and tones that Kanye made his own, and exhibit his particular brand of musical assertion. And as alluded to earlier, the band clearly cop "So What'cha Want" by Beastie Boys for the anti-gentrification / colonization rant, "Get Off My Rock," and Mick Jones's sneer-singing and sense of production and arrangements are all over "Scam Likely" and "Kick."
When the Clash and Beastie Boys respectively unleashed their mixtape-like albums,1980's Sandinista! and 1992's Check Your Head, these future classics were greeted with some confusion. Their scale, their lack of focus, their social outspokenness were heard as rather messy expressions. FIDLAR aren't on the level of such bands but the reach here — the attempt to evolve and try and shake shit up — is admirable and, on an emotional, coming-of-age tip, very human. (Dine Alone)