Mom+Pop · January 25, 2019
From the cracks of the Los Angeles punk rock scene grew FIDLAR, a skater punk band writing music about some of life’s grittiest aspects: beer, drugs, and forever-youth. That was 2013. Six years later, FIDLAR released their third studio album Almost Free, evolving from their original brand of partying and youth to a deeper and more mature perspective, still featuring Zac Carper’s signature yelling.
Many of the tracks criticize some of society’s worst perspectives and the consequences that they produce. On “Too Real,” the band addresses self-righteous attitudes that arise from the need to be the most “woke.” Lyrics like “You can blame it on the left / You Can blame it on the right / No, just admit it, you just like to fight” are packed with the FIDLAR bitterness fans know and love, but it’s elevated to a more worldly topic. “Get Off My Rock” carries a heavy Beastie Boys sound with a sincere message about the gentrification seen in the members’ homes of Los Angeles and Hawaii. “Can’t You See” mocks the highly sought after material lifestyle of trendy LA areas with tongue-in-cheek lyrics like “Meditate, you can get rich quick/ Don’t talk, just like my shit.” They don’t pussyfoot their criticisms.
In “By Myself,” fun ska music dances with depressing lyrics like “Yeah, started from the bottom and I’m still at the bottom,” touching upon the struggles of excessive drinking and the loneliness it produces. FIDLAR often plays with this dichotomy of mixing upbeat music with nihilistic lyricism, but this song stands out (not just because it sounds like Smash Mouth). Even the signature lyric “Well, I’m crackin’ one open with the boys by myself” expresses the struggles of excessive drinking and loneliness while hiding behind thin humor. The buoyant rhythm makes it a fun standout track on the album while the lyrics make it a memorable one as well.
The most surprising part in Almost Free is the instrumentals beyond the abrasive guitar riffs and frantic drums. The exclusively instrumental track “Almost Free” features an arrangement of horns, a novelty to FIDLAR’s discography. Carper explains in an interview with Upset Magazine that “We have horns on this record, fucking trumpets and saxophones and trombones and shit; we went for it,” also noting the risk they’re taking by “putting out on the fucking line.” The risk was well worth it. In “Get Off My Rock,” harmonicas, sirens, and barking saturate the song. It’s refreshing, though, and confirms that they weren’t messing around when naming their band “Fuck It Dog, Life’s A Risk.” With all the outside influences being incorporated into the album, I expected it to be messy, incongruent and unoriginal. However, besides its few faults, like the forgettable “Flaws,” which sounds like a bland Black Keys song, each song makes sense. Each song has FIDLAR’s signature flair that erases any doubt of originality.
FIDLAR stepped back from their edginess, but the result isn’t a bad one. It speaks to a band that has matured over the last six years. It speaks to a band that has thrown the fantasy of bumming around on a dirty mattress in a bare apartment with your friends away. Their songs still may hold this callousness, especially on songs like “Nuke” and “Alcohol.” But there are sweeter, more controlled moments as well, like the floaty “Thought. Mouth.” and “Called You Twice” with K.Flay, a cathartic duet about Carper’s recent breakup. FIDLAR is ten years old, and in their junior album, they make an admirable effort to reflect on that age and mature lyrically and instrumentally. Almost Free demonstrates self-awareness while still saying “Fuck it, dude, life’s a ride.”