You get the feeling FIDLAR have had some weapons-grade hangovers. After all, they’ve spent the last five years writing about white lines and gold lagers, ricocheting between being strung out and sulking sobriety. Their first two albums, the adventurously titled 'FIDLAR' and 'Too', are the musical equivalent of a booze-induced existential crisis, the kind that would break a lesser band’s will to carry on. Surely, you think, these guys can’t take any more.
But on their third record, 'Almost Free', FIDLAR are cracking on with tracks like the ‘what it says on the tinnie’ single ‘Alcohol’, and the ramshackle lament to solo drinking ‘By Myself’. In some senses, they haven’t changed their ways. ‘Kick’ - an Elvis Kuehn special about getting over addiction of any kind - is classically FIDLAR, all twanging guitars and distorted vocals about bad behaviour. ‘Good Times Are Over’ and single ‘Can’t You See’, too, show off the best of their anti-self-care stance.
Elsewhere though, the band have experimented with sometimes disappointing results. While 'Too' was like one long, perfect riff, 'Almost Free' doesn’t hold together in quite the same way. FIDLAR have cleaned up their production values and branched out, but the new directions can feel misplaced. The shiny ‘Scam Likely’, for example, wouldn’t be out of place on a Noel Gallagher album - it’s fine, but place it with ‘Nuke’’s extreme garage rock or the extended panic attack of ‘Too Real’, and the house starts to fall down. Still, the real wild card on 'Almost Free' is ‘Called You Twice’, a bruised break-up ballad featuring K. Flay, and one of the strongest songs on the record. Here, FIDLAR tap into a vein and show what they can really do.
'Almost Free' is a mixed bag, but when FIDLAR are good, they are still very good indeed.