Fightmilk’s second album, ‘Contender’ (released via Reckless Yes) finds the South London four piece dipping into more of a power pop sound than ever before. During the writing and recording process, each member stepped up to add something new – whether that was playing their instruments in a different way, experimenting with drum machines or embracing all kinds of harmonies…
The record opens ‘(contender)’, a sparse and short piano piece with a spoken-word admission that ‘I fucked it, I’m sorry’. This self-depreciating tone is something that vocalist and guitarist Lily will return to time and time again throughout the record’s running time. The potent blast of ‘Lucky Coin’ follows with its warts-and-all account of mental health struggles (‘We wake up every morning and we pray the end is quick. The world is just one dark room that makes you feel sick.’) before ‘Hey Annabelle’ fuses woozy guitar lines with jaunty handclaps. The brilliantly titled ‘I’m Starting to Think You Don’t Even Want to Go’ reminded us of the more ‘sophisticated’ side of Britpop (Suede, Pulp, Longpigs…) with its beefy riffs and melancholic confessions: ‘You said one day you’d fly me to the moon, these days you just make sad songs in your room’.
This honesty continues throughout ‘The Absolute State of Me – personal observations about needing to throw up and walking home in the dark – and the tender tones of ‘Girls Don’t Want to Have Fun’, a sublime piece of sadpop that inevitably references ’80s pop but with some angular guitar work thrown in for good measure. We hear elements of Los Campesinos! in the truly exhilarating, frantic and frenetic ‘Cool Cool Girl’ (‘I just want somebody to come home with me. Don’t wanna be a girl. I wanna be a cool, cool girl’), while ‘Banger #4’ lives up to its title. Healey’s bass drives the poignant ‘If You Had a Sister’ forward, perfectly complementing the heartfelt lyrics about a difficult situation: ‘I don’t want all of the power, just the strength you take away’.
‘You Are Not the Universe’ finds the band experimenting with a powerful new wave sound as they examine the class divide – ‘All of those expensive schools, the smallest person in the room’ – before ‘Maybe’ showcases a softer sound as Lily sing about her hopes that a loved one remembers her: ‘I’m a shadow, come and find me at your window’. There’s another short interlude in the form of ‘(bartender)’ before recent single ‘Overbite’ – a love letter to someone with wonky teeth that the band describe as sounding ‘like every My Chemical Romance song being played at the same time’ – closes the album in sweet tooth style.
Fightmilk’s ‘Contender’ is more than up to the challenge.