If you fell in love with the raw tenacity and uncompromising harshness of FIDLAR’s first two albums, Almost Free isn’t going to be what you expect. However, despite its poppy nature, brass parts, and K.FLAY feature (I’m just as surprised as you are, trust me) the album stays true to the brutally honest, yet undeniably fun, nature of the band’s first two releases.
While the musical backdrop of this album differs from their past efforts, FIDLAR still delivers their brutal descriptions of depression and drug addictions. For example, the track “Alcohol” chronicles the desire to use the song’s namesake to escape depression while also mentioning the numerous problems it causes. By refusing to sugarcoat his struggles, Frontman Zac Carper’s lyrics draw the listener in. The honesty is infectious, and also allows anyone listening to feel better about their own struggles, since the lyrics are often just as brutal as your own feelings.
Another characteristic of FIDLAR’s discography is their refusal to take themselves seriously, as songs such as “Cheap Beer”, featuring the timeless lyric “I drink cheap beer, so what, F*ck you”—have proven to be some of their biggest hits. The ridiculousness is manifested on Almost Free in songs such as “By Myself”, where Carper describes alcoholism as “Cracking one open with the boys, by myself” over the most ridiculous, ska-influenced instrumental conceived since the 90s.
Does Almost Free depart from the bands punkier roots by being poppy as hell? You betcha! Is this a bad thing? Absolutely not. “Can’t You See” is arguably the best pop-rock song since Portugal. The Man’s “Feel It Still”, with a hook so catchy it should play wide receiver. The pop influence also serves to make the album’s less energetic tracks more interesting (see ‘Good Times Are Over’ and its infectious riff), where on previous albums they tended to overstay their welcome. This shift in sound does have its missteps, as the K.FLAY feature, “Called You Twice” checks all the boxes as a manufactured radio hit. Does it feature a pop artist that’s more popular than the band? Yep! Is it completely uncharacteristic of the rest of the band’s discography in almost every way possible? You know it. Screaming is replaced with two part harmonies. Notoriously NSFW lyrics about drug abuse and depression are replaced with a disingenuous and sappy lament on wasted love.
Despite the this influence, FIDLAR still delivers a set of throat-shredding boarderline-harcore songs in “Alchohol”, “Too Real”, and “Nuke” which provide every ounce of energy found in their previous releases, and the frenetic energy of “Too Real” is particularly noteworthy. Distorted guitars howl over a crunchy synth line as Carper screams insults at modern society, culminating with a mocking question of “Was that too f*cking real?”
Some final notes:
Despite being an instrumental, “Almost Free” is one of the better tracks on the album. It’s incredibly groovy and the trumpet is a welcome addition.
The album’s final track, “Good Times Are Over”, might just be the best song on the album. It has an incredibly interesting chord progression and multiple key changes that are sure to catch your attention.
Despite being extremely intense, “Nuke” holds no lyrical value and is too short to feel like it has a place on the album.
While many of the band’s fans may be turned away by Almost Free, FIDLAR’s change in sound is a welcome one, as the introduction of brass and pop influences onto the album adds texture and catchiness not found on previous albums. While some songs feel half baked, there isn’t a bad tune on the album, and its variety insures you’ll find a song or 13 that are worth your time.