Say goodbye to the old, trashy, garage-punk band that we all used to know (and love) as they attempt to implement a hodgepodge of sounds that aren’t in their usual repertoire.
FIDLAR, an acronym short for “F*** It Dog, Life’s A Risk,” originally formed in 2009 as a punk project. Over the years, the group slowly began letting go of their hardcore roots and began experimenting with more accessible music. After releasing their critically acclaimed debut album in 2011, the group has since performed on late night talk shows CONAN and Jimmy Kimmel Live!, as well as been featured on the television series “Shameless.” FIDLAR’s junior album, Almost Free, deals with a breadth of topics along the lines of gentrification, several rehabilitation ordeals, and bitter break-ups. For much of the album, however, the band does not match their instrumentation to the level of heavy-loaded themes.
And everybody thinks that I need professional help
But I don’t wanna think about that anymore
“By Myself,” one of four singles, isn’t the group’s first revelation of lead singer Zac Carper’s struggle with alcoholism. Substance abuse in general, drenched itself into the band’s discography—from beer anthems to in-depth tales of cocaine.
The tropical and upbeat nature clashes with Carper’s contempt in the idea of sobering up; a confounding three minutes that takes a wrong turn towards dance-mania once the first verse is in full effect. It is, in other words, simply off-putting. Everybody knows what it’s like to argue with your significant other in public. “Called You Twice“ is a graspable break-up dilemma that contains quite frankly, some of Carper’s worst attempts to sing. The track also features painfully elementary songwriting. “I went to every school but I never really learned,” he cringe-worthily harmonizes alongside featured singer K. Flay.
There are few moments of promise, like on the opening track “Get Off My Rock,” where Carper speaks on gentrification, assertively reminding tourists their 3-4 day vacation spot is his home. *To all you visitors, hide your belongings because Carper can’t promise the safety of them.* With the minimal production and aggressive, slow-shouted verses, the Beastie Boys influence couldn’t go unmentioned. “Alcohol“ was the group’s lead single and one of few tracks that will sound familiar. By this point into the album, you’d probably be able to guess that Zac isn’t the biggest fan of AA. Listening to others tell their story isn’t his priority; it might as well be the last thing on his mind.
I stay out of your way if you stay out of my way
‘Cause I don’t wanna listen to your shit every day
As the group continues to re-define their identity, projects like this are essential to explore new realms. Almost Free is FIDLAR’s trial to uncover different sounds—implementing horns, check out “Scam Likely,” and singing to what seems like adolescent teens, listen to “Thought. Mouth.” It strays away from the glorification drug phase of FIDLAR and the process of sobering up in Too. Here, we see FIDLAR face a major impasse; Carper’s worldview matures but their musicianship sinks. As far as the album title goes, it could refer to some of the bandmates’ overcoming of drug abuse but could also mean free from their original punk attraction; I really hope it’s the first.