>> FIDLAR has returned to do what it is that they do best; encapsulate the west coast feeling of fuzzy guitars and all day parties with their newest release 'Almost Free.'
The album moves fast with plenty of toe-tapping songs and catchy pop melodies that make you want to head to the beach with a cooler full of suds. Each song brings you along with brothers Max and Elvis Kuehn as you can distinctly hear their influences mixing into their brand of west coast punk rock. Unlike their famous dad with legends T.S.O.L. they heavily lean on production. Almost Free is at times hip hop, at times 90’s fuzz rock, and other times pop. Each song seems like a 1990’s radio amalgamation that leaves a little something for everyone. The album’s best track is the title track “Almost Free,” a two-minute guitar and horn-driven instrumental anthem that could have easily been released in the 1970s on an obscure B-side vinyl.
The album opens up with a Beastie Boys sounding beat that at first envelopes the listener but quickly turns around when it becomes a bit Kid Rock. As if it couldn’t get any more familiar suddenly the “Insane in the Brain” sped up horn noise appears in the background. It could almost be a mash-up and sounds almost like Girl Talk but from your little brother’s garage bound cover band. It’s difficult to listen to and is a tough song to start off the album. The songwriting in general on Almost Free is junior high at best, with predictable boring lyrics that aren’t inspired or interesting. This paired with a constant and redundant I, IV, V chord structure makes for an album of music for people who don’t actually like music but would rather have some white noise on in the background while they're doing something else.
Perplexing at times is the production which varies from song to song like each one was made specifically as a single or for a different album entirely. Suddenly there’s reverb on the snare and the vocals dodge in and out of a different fuzzier reverb ending in a completely clean up-front vocal. This is probably easiest to listen for in “Cant’ You See,” but it happens again and again throughout the entire album and it’s actually distracting to the melodies, which at times can be really good. Just as the melodies are impacted by the fuzzy production, so is the ability to hear the lyrics themselves. “By Myself” has a four on the floor feel that fails to impress and contains quite possibly the worst lyrics on the entire album which seems an impossible feat. It’s like watching someone scale a ten story building barehanded: it’s impossible to look away, constantly anticipating the precipitous fall.
This album is heterogeneous to a fault. It at times almost sounds like a different band entirely from one song to the next. The album as a whole is more about production than the music itself as if the band had several different parts and ideas previously recorded separately and gave it all to producer Ricky Reed to do whatever he could with it all. In general, it seems uninspired and relatively boring. Devoid of a standout hit that past albums have contained, ‘Almost Free’ could possibly be an omen to things to come for FIDLAR. It’s entirely possible this is the last album FIDLAR will do for Mom and Pop Records. Maybe their next move is to go independent or sign with another label. It’s also possible that they are ready to go their separate ways and they’re excited to be almost free themselves, this last album and tour the only thing standing in their way. The last song on the album is “Good Times Are Over.” How fitting of a title to the last track of this album if that is true. Pay close attention to the lyrics when you listen. 2.1/5 <<