Fickle Friends have been a trusty companion throughout my formative student years – releasing their debut single “Swim” a heady four (!!!) years ago, the Brighton boppers have been touring the UK circuit relentlessly ever since. They have been cruelly feeding me and their other obsessive fans live demos of unreleased tracks for years on end. You Are Someone Else – their debut album – has been a long time coming, and for the most part does not disappoint.
Opening with their latest ripper of a single “Wake Me Up,” a synth driven lament to a doomed relationship, Fickle Friends set the tone for the other 15 songs on the tracklist: neon tinged bops tinged with darker lyrics exploring the pitfalls of being young. The band are at their best when this juxtaposition is most pronounced: the aforementioned “Swim” sounds as fresh today as it did in 2014 (no thanks to multiple reworks the band have subjected the track to through several rereleases), with its sunny disco streaked swagger belying panicked lyrics about drowning in the general havoc of growing up (I lose my mind amongst your things/But I can’t swim). “Swim” is not the only vintage Fickle track gifted a rerecording – standout track “Paris” appears as a charming reboot of a stalwart live favourite. Lead singer Natassja Shiner’s voice takes centre stage, begging a lover to ‘Balance me out’ on a more lowkey track with a soaring drop.
It’s hard not to notice how deep the band have dug into their back catalogue for their debut, especially if you’ve been following them for half a decade. A whopping eight tracks were released before the album (half if you’re keeping count). While it’s nice to see some unfairly ignored tracks thrust into the limelight now Fickle’s fanbase has justly exploded, others were perhaps better left on the circuit. “Brooklyn”’s attempt to other Natassja’s anxiety as ‘someone else’ feels particularly poignant now the band are on the cusp of huge mainstream success, and “Hello Hello”’s frustration at a boyfriend who has lost sight of what he’s worth but is worth sticking with regardless (Sitting on my suitcase/In the doorway out of spite) is a sleekly constructed articulation of the feeling of being on the other side of youthful angst; but other throwbacks are perhaps not so #relatable. “Hard To Be Myself” lacks the smarts of the other songs on the album (what’s it about? The clue’s in the title), and “Say No More” is feeling tired – though this may be just because I’ve been subject to three (!!!) years of live performances of the track. While it is perhaps an unfair criticism to attack Fickle for including their tried and tested crowd pleasers, at 16 tracks the album could afford to drop a song or three; and these older cuts seem a good target when the new tracks constitute Fickle’s best output to date.
Yes! Finally Fickle have output that topples “Swim,” their debut single which by their own admission crippled their attempts to release an album years ago due to their inability to write tracks approaching its quality. It’s a genuine delight listening to these radio-worthy songs that the band have clearly been saving for an album. “Heartbroken” pairs a playful lilting synth bass line with not-actually-as-deep-as-it-sounds lyrics about when you send a mate something you think is sick and they blank you (big vibes sharing memes with the group chat L). “Lovesick”‘s urgent guitar shredding under lines about Nat’s fake ass boyfriend (‘I am sick, so fed up, I am done’) compliments her rejection on “Rotation” of her fake ass friends (‘I don’t need friends like him?’). All three tracks feel eminently more accessible and real than “Swim,” cementing Fickle Friends’ place as songwriters to watch.
It is a genuine joy to see Fickle Friends achieve such greatness on their debut album. They make it look effortless, but the band have put the work in, grinded real hard, and the payoff is beyond worth it. You Are Someone Else is a treat for both new fans and crazed veterans who have been copping their old jackets on Depop for years (sue me) alike, gifting us with a bounteous crop of vintage favourites and fresh slappers.
This post originally appeared on Under City Lights, which you can check out here.