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Contender Aug Stone , May 26th, 2021 07:51

London quartet Fightmilk offer up a joyful racket on their second LP, Contender

Fightmilk’s second album Contender proves itself worthy of the title. If you like catchy indierock/pop with lyrics that can cut down the best of them but just as easily abandon that tone for the heartfelt, and even profound, then Fightmilk are the band for you. Their 2018 debut, Not With That Attitude, was a winning combination of bile, big hooks, and a great sense of humor and, although they didn’t need to, the band has expanded their palette on Contender and it’s paid off handsomely. Lily Rae’s voice, already powerful, has become much more expressive as well, adding subtle inflections to strong lyrical lines and making these that much richer. The shout is still there, mind you, most evident in ‘Cool Cool Girl’ whose middle-eight list beginning “I’m a poet, I’m a DJ, I’m an artist, I’m amazing” gets right to the point, showing up the shallow ambitions of the titular type.

The band have also begun working electronics into their sound, shifting the mood on tunes such as ‘Girls Don’t Want To Have Fun’ and ‘If You Had A Sister...’, the latter being a particularly excellent feminist take on blaming a man’s horrible behavior on the lack of a female influence rather than any responsibility on his part. It also has a gorgeous melody. Despite referencing Cyndi Lauper, ‘Girls Don’t Want To Have Fun’ is in no way a pastiche, with the title not even coming in until the end of the song. And this points to something about the album: that sections of songs do sound familiar in a big pop way but almost nothing is immediately identifiable. A love of Pulp and the spirit of Kenickie are the two references one can glean. The cadence and content of ‘Hey Annabelle!’’s lyrics bring Jarvis to mind. And the very beginning of album highlight ‘I’m Starting To Think You Don’t Even Want To Go To Space’ is pure ‘Do You Remember The First Time?’, but only for the first five seconds. This excellent tune is ostensibly about Elon Musk, but its title is a brilliant thing to say to anyone. Add to that the wonderfully stretched rhymes of the first half of the chorus – “Watching Interstellar didn’t make it better, Reading Carl Sagan, looking kind of vacant” – and this song won’t stop orbiting your head anytime soon.

Love isn’t often suffered gladly in Fightmilk songs – see opener ‘Lucky Coin’s “you just need a girl for your band, it’s like Disneyland for your feelings” and ‘The Absolute State Of Me’’s first line “sometimes I’m so in love I have to go throw up” – but when it is, it’s done big. Bringing us to Contender’s two best songs: ‘Maybe’ and ‘Overbite’. These closing numbers are unabashed infectious openness and positivity. ‘Maybe’ starts off acoustic and dreamy before the band kicks in, building and pushing each section further until when the song finally reaches its point of maximum intensity, it is all the better for this restraint throughout, a steady juggernaut for the sumptuous ending vocals to sail over. ‘Overbite’ then opens the throttle all the way for a simply joyous close to a great record.