FIDLAR means “Fuck It Dog, Life’s A Risk.” This is a band who made their 2012 debut with lead singer Zac Carper screaming, “I drink cheap beer/So what?/Fuck you,” on their eponymous album FIDLAR’s opening track, “Cheap Beer.” Immediately, FIDLAR became the epitome of SoCal party–punk, but “punk” has never really been their sound. Rather than worrying themselves with the strict sonic and cultural guidelines put forth by the generations of social outcasts and staunch, self–identifying nonconformists who call themselves “punk,” FIDLAR has always done what they’ve wanted. And that’s what makes them punk as all hell, even if their music isn’t.
With the help of producer Ricky Reed, who has worked with big names like Leon Bridges and Maroon 5, FIDLAR takes a characteristically unconcerned swing at pop–rock stardom in their new album, Almost Free. After all, they’ll “never sell out man!” But with bigger hooks and catchier melodies than ever before, a naive fan might mistake them as trying to.
Almost Free is their most stylistically diverse record, taking notes—and sometimes cliches—from several generations of pop–rock greats. “Get Off My Rock” lands somewhere between The Beastie Boys and Rage Against the Machine, with a recurring harmonica solo on top; “Flake” sounds as if a Billy Squier song put on a flannel and rolled around in the dirt for an hour. Still, FIDLAR’s special brand of grit breathes new life into these otherwise tired sub–genres. The foursome stomps their way through each track with swagger, and the result is an iconic record.
FIDLAR's self–titled debut album documented the band’s wild partying and drug use, while their second album, Too, narrated Zac Carper’s journey to sobriety after his heroin addiction. Almost Free finds FIDLAR commenting on the world around them for the first time. “Get Off My Rock” taunts vacationers and equates gentrification to colonization; “Too Real,” questions the legitimacy of white guilt and bemoans modern technology, the government, and EDM all at once. Obviously FIDLAR is tired of living in Los Angeles, where property values in Echo Park are on the rise and identity politics are thriving. These criticisms, however, are mostly unfocused and only scratch the surface of some hot topics. Who cares, though? These songs are bangers, and no one is looking at Zac Carper to be the next great American poet.
But it wouldn’t be a FIDLAR record if there weren’t songs about getting messed up and struggling with sobriety. “Yeah I started from the bottom/Then I spent a night in jail, turned out it wasn’t the bottom/And I lost so many friends, turns out I was the problem,” Carper sings on "By Myself," the album’s most upbeat, bongo–filled track. Carper’s taunting vocals sardonically sing lyrics masking trauma with humor. That’s the essence of FIDLAR: never too serious, but not to be taken lightly.
“,” the album’s title track, is also its biggest middle finger. What other band is going to make the title track of their record an instrumental ,especially when they’ve never released an instrumental song before? Here’s the thing, though: it slaps. Two minutes and fifteen seconds of the same hypnotizing, funk–rock guitar riff over and over again hasn’t sounded this good in years. Fuck your schemas, FIDLAR does what they want.
TL;DR—Should I listen to Almost Free?
If you are a rock and roll fan, definitely. FIDLAR are incredible musicians, and listening to them apply their talent to a variety of styles makes Almost Free a captivating listen. However, if power chords and guitar solos aren’t your thing, this record might not be for you. Give it a chance, though! Even if rock isn’t your aesthetic, the songwriting stands on its own, and the hooks are catchy enough to grab the ear of any casual listener.