On their third full length, Let’s Go Extinct, London’s Fanfarlo deliver their most ambitious and yet most distant and uneven album to date. Though the album is well produced and performed to perfection, the music falls flat due to Fanfarlo’s reluctance to take the risks necessary to set them apart in a crowded genre. This seems like a paradox when the band is taking on bigger themes with even bigger production, but for all the grandeur at the surface, there are no new or imaginative takes on the genre nor is there any genre defining moment that would solidify Fanfarlo as an important part of the Baroque pop scene. Instead, the album bogged down by mediocre songs and overwrought imagery. That’s not to say the album lacks imagination or is devoid of musical highlights; it’s just that the album, as a whole, fails to deliver upon its ambitious promises.
Fanfarlo has always delivered a seamless and pristine pop, not far removed from like minded musicians Broken Social Scene. Their sound, shimmery and sheen, is almost catchy enough to make you dance; their synth-laden leads are matched by vocalist Simon Balthazar’s warbled delivery, which gives him just enough personality to not sound like a Christian rock singer. If there is a list somewhere that describes the perfect indie record then Fanfarlo has that list and can check off each point. However, for the second album in a row, they fail to translate this ideological perfection into an engaging musical experience.
Songs like “Life in the Sky,” “Cell Song,” and “A Distance” are the few highlights of the album and reveal the greatest strength of the band: writing catchy refrains. Fortunately there isn’t a shortage of these throughout the album. Catchiness is not a problem with Let’s Go Extinct. A lack of depth in the songwriting, or more likely and poor attempt at being deep, does plague the album. A perfect example is “Myth of Myself (A Ruse to Exploit Our Weakness),” Balthazar’s ruminations on the meaning of identity that ultimately crumbles under its own weight before its four and a half minutes are over; or the poorly chosen closer “Let’s Go Extinct” that highlights the band at its most labored and pretentious.
For all its peaks and valleys, Let’s Go Extinct, isn’t a bad album; it’s just an OK album, and that is why, in the end, it fails. For all its ideological and thematic ambition, the album is musically bland and uninspired. “Life in the Sky” is nothing more than a Broken Social Scene retread; “A Distance” is a Cut Copy B-side; and “Myth of Myself,” is as overbearing as anything off the new Arcade Fire album. The fact is that there is nothing distinctive about Fanfarlo and for an album that is so wrapped up in themes of identity and existence this is a major failure. Perhaps it’s time for Fanfarlo to rid themselves of that indie album check list and begin looking for an identity instead of just singing about one.