Fanfarlo - Let’s Go Extinct
The London prog-folkers try slightly too hard at a concept album, with echoes of Talking Heads and Dirty Projectors
(New World Records)
Let’s Go Extinct, the third record from London prog-folkers Fanfarlo, has ambition and aspiration pouring from every note and syllable. It ambitiously covers universal themes of people, living things, the human body and inter-connectivity. It attempts to tie these themes into a prog-inflected concept album in the vein of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (even alluding to it with the ticking clocks of ‘Time’ on the needlessly wordy and pretentiously titled ‘Myth of Myself (A Ruse to Exploit Our Weaknesses)’). It tries to take disparate genres like prog-folk and new wave and make them work side by side. Lead vocalist Simon Balthazar aspires to be as poetically articulate as Baudelaire, who gave the band their name.
Unfortunately for Balthazar and Fanfarlo, their ambition and aspiration amount only to a noble failure.
The influences and allusions are worn too visibly on the band’s sleeve for it to feel especially fresh. It fails to reach the compositional structure and thematic connections that the difficult concept album mission requires. Balthazar’s voice is pleasant and tuneful, but when you want to inject your music with new wave danceability, you can’t sound too much like its most impressive pioneer, David Byrne. Similarly, if you intend on fusing your folk core with pop sensibilities and electronic flourishes, you can’t vocally sound like Dirty Projectors’ David Longstreth, or musically sound like Midlake’s recent prog-folk triumph, Antiphon. As an intelligent listener, you're left feeling like Fanfarlo are quite like these other bands, just not nearly as good. When the similarities are so obvious, it makes Let’s Go Extinct pale in comparison.
The record is nonetheless enjoyable in the moments when Fanfarlo don’t force it and forget that they are trying to make their 'masterpiece'. When Balthazar isn’t taking himself too seriously, such as the fun shout-a-long ‘Landlocked’ (watch the video below), or when his bandmates let rip at the end of ‘Painting with Life’, the record becomes more laidback and the catchy melodies come to the forefront rather than being swept over and consumed by cosmic opera sounds and unnecessary brass. However, when you’ve set your ambition so high and only manage to produce an album that contains surface enjoyment without much significant substance, the end result feels a little weightless.
Fanfarlo headline Broadcast, Glasgow on Sat 8 Feb.