On her third album, the former Nickelodeon star sheds the cute popstar image, adopting a message of empowerment that rings true
Funeral For A Friend : Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation
There go our heroes, they’re ordinary...
Half-formed, muddy and scratchy though most of it was at first, the rumble from the rehearsal rooms and divebars of the provincial British Isles has been getting harder to ignore. And just as we begin to suspect that 'Elephant' is so good that the White Stripes can never top it; a new flurry of Britrock debuts are being scattergunned out on our own doorstep. You could call some of the bands Extremo, but what's been going on is too soulful to bracket with a made-up word. Away from the belljar of too much attention, a new breed have been able to twist rock out of its normal sounds and shapes, develop at their own pace, perfect their moves and emerge on the charts with fully-formed followings that lesser movements would have had to 'grow' through 'street teams' and 'viral marketing'. As futures of rock go, its been a rather polite revolution, but all the same, its heroes, Funeral For A Friend have crafted one fearsome debut.
It would be unfair on everyone else to call 'Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation' the first great album to come out of all this. But what is true is that this fiery, dynamic hulk of a record will be the first to break properly out into daylight. From the moment 'Rookie Of The Year' rockets out of the starting blocks, there's a sense of importance stamped all over it. Generically, yes, this is Extremo, but there's a wider scope of purpose that pulls in all the tricks of classic rock. Former single 'Juneua' is packed with ravenous radio moves, but the pounding house-rock of 'Moments Forever Faded' has hardcore (and the original good idea behind what turned into nu-metal) in its gills; and token ballad 'Your Revolution Is A Joke' might lull you into a sense of reedy acoustic security, but by the time the chorus opens out, it sounds like '80s hair-rockers' Extreme's power ballad 'More Than Words'. In a good way! With politics! Result!
Because what Funeral For A Friend, and the rest of the new school honourably revive is good old-fashioned negativity. We're not talking Jack White's winsome heartbreak or Davey Havok's self-serving Sorrow; but the kind of honest, outward-looking ferocious despair that hasn't been properly harnessed since Kurt Cobain ballsed it all up by killing himself and sending a generation of British kids shuffling off to limp Britpop records when the going got tough. Yet it's done with so much spirit. 'Bend Your Arms To Look Like Wings' desperately pleas insanity for a generation ( "I hope you can save us from ourselves") while 'Escape Artists Never Die' makes sex sound like water torture ("the red poison of your eyes is where I kissed the blood from"). Like the best rock, 'Casually Dressed and Deep In Conversation' is about the comfort in being normal, and the right to be unhappy while still having the time of your life (a Brave New World indeed).
But best of all, this feels fervently like a debut album. This is the big music done basic and scratchy - music that throws heroic shapes and daubs its lines in big black marker, mapping out just how important Funeral For A Friend are about to become before your eyes. Which in these days of one-strike-and-out, is a rare pleasure indeed.
So in the end, it was time for heroes after all. But the normal, showy, druggy kind of heroes - we've found to our peril - can land your dreams and aspirations banged up at the wrong end of a crack pipe for six months. Funeral For A Friend have managed to create something amazing and impressive that you know you could almost do yourself. There go our heroes, they're ordinary.
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