FIDLAR – ‘Almost Free’ review

The LA garage punks return with album three, an eclectic collection that combines thumping choruses with bracingly frank lyrics, reinvigorating their sound

Met with universal acclaim, FIDLAR’s 2013 self-titled debut was a stonking collection of skate-punk bops about cheap beer and getting high. Follow up ‘Too’ carried through the scuzzy guitars and overdriven riffs, but lyrically was more developed, the album tackling weightier subject matter (such as frontman Zac Carper’s road to sobriety).

Now, almost four years on, the garage rockers are back with album three, ‘Almost Free’, on which everything seemingly has changed, even if their essential songwriting elements remain in place . This time around marks a stark difference in production style for the group, working with Ricky Reed (best known for his work with the pop stars likes of Jason Derulo, Maggie Rogers and Halsey). The result is a pick ‘n mix collection of songs.

‘Almost Free’ thrives through musical variety, juxtaposing the garage punk sound longtime fans of the band will be craving with fresh influences and bold new sonic choices. Sleazy guitars and sneering vocals still prevail, but this time sit alongside thumping Kasabian-style choruses (‘By Myself’) and slinky alt-rock bass lines (‘Can’t You See’). The pounding ‘Get Off My Rock’ combines Beastie Boys-style vocals with the band’s trademark instrumentals, whilst ‘Too Real’ mixes eerie licks with skittering, syncopated beats.

Lyrically, the album spans the band’s love-hate relationship with LA, gentrification and messy breakups. On ‘Alcohol’, FIDLAR discuss longtime subject matter booze, but this time with a darker undercurrent: “I’m sure I got it figured out but I really don’t know / I love waking up in some random’s home”. On the face of it, this is a fun, dumb celebration of booze and good times, but the song takes on a new sense of melancholy when remembered that the musician has spoken publicly about his complex relationship with alcohol and drugs. With that in mind, the jaunty sounding ‘By Myself’ is the quintessential FIDLAR 2019 song, Carper beaming, “Well, I’m cracking one open with the boys by myself / And everybody thinks that I need professional help”.

Stuffed with fizzing hooks and brilliantly frank lyrics, ‘Almost Free’ could be FIDLAR’s best record yet. A blistering collection of eclectic tunes threaded together by punks’ fearless riffs and unguarded admissions, which add even more weight to their sound, it’s a reminder of how much we’ve missed them. Welcome back, lads.

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