Coin Op: Friendly Fire

Devon Powers

Coin Op

Friendly Fire

Label: Fierce Panda
US Release Date: Available as import
UK Release Date: 2002-10-14

So much promise, just so much. There's a big whoosh of a beginning, swooping down like a hawk lunging for its next meal, sharp-eyed and fierce. The entire first track, instrumental: speedy hunt forged by those ballsy, strident guitars that open wide, the way of proper British rock, an anthem that could rally a hoard of let-down soccer hooligans. A great beginning. So much promise, just so much.

Coin-Op, could they keep this fire burning throughout Friendly Fire, would be kings -- beloved kings at that. But Nick Hills has to open his god-forsaken mouth, and when he does, that big bird of prey is discovered to be simply a squawking crow. The stadium shrinks, and it in are not rabble-rousing fans, but instead maybe soccer moms, who wouldn't know rock it if it were lobbed at their collective hairdos, cheering on a game for tots. What a shame.

It's all over by the second number, "Democracies". A charging keyboard line is met by a surge of drums, guitar and bass -- perhaps not clean, but at least thrilling for its vigor. Then, lo and behold, the singing. "I am a tyrannical leader," Hills sings, his voice all animal torture and crazed without purpose. Looking past the sheer annoyance of his voice and simply concentrating on what he's saying is no hope either. "This is our year zero / I'm gonna eat your heroes," Hills continues, then his bandmates hoot like monkeys trapped in a laboratory cage. Perhaps sounding completely feral is what they're going for, but I personally prefer my music a bit more evolved.

I'd like to say it gets better over the course of the record, but frankly it just doesn't. The vim and vigor which made the beginning interlude arresting devolves later into energized but lackluster guitar slop, power chords and pointless riffs running amok everywhere. Coin-Op have but one musical mode, and that's high-speed, messy, and loud-loud-loud. When they attempt to play around with this, they again land in the muck: "Southpaw", a song with two distinct "movements", ends up sounding confused rather than complicated. Guitar lines run zigzag for no good reason. The drums are a dissonant wash of noise. There are curious sounds -- a buzz here, a zip-de-do there -- that are simply puzzling.

All over this album is more of the same. "Flex", coming third, is a stylistic departure into keyboard-dominant space-wave, but abandons its hook midway so that Hills, also the band's keyboardist, can seemingly experiment with what the function of certain knobs he'd not used before. "The Curve" has a Gay Dad-esque glam about it, with Hills at times affecting a convincing Cliff Jones, but the song overall sports none of Jones & Co.'s glittery intelligence or cheeky attitude. The song also lasts for just under two minutes, but comes off not so much a bang of punk energy as it does the limit of Coin-Op's creative chops.

Plenty of successful and enjoyable bands are not musical virtuosos. There are more than a handful of lead singers whose vocal stylings would numb formally trained ears. Originality and creativity are always relative and contextual. But mediocrity through and through results in a boring product, plain and simple. Friendly Fire, for all its bombast, is boring. And I'm starting to think that any promise I hear on this record was dumb luck, or an accident.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.