Fightmilk – Contender: Album Review

The second Fightmilk album has the boisterous Britpoppery of Sleeper, the pop-punk effervescence of Sløtface and the Goth-tinged angry jangle of Desperate Journalist.

Release date: 14th May 2021

Label: Reckless Yes

Formats: Ltd Edn CD / Ltd Edn Eco Vinyl / Ltd Edn Cream & Black Smoke Vinyl / DL.

Within seconds of Contender starting, it stops. You hear, “I f**ked it, sorry,” and then it restarts. That acknowledgment of life’s imperfections and that bold self-deprecation continue throughout. Songs largely contend with screwing up and coming to terms with it, or address someone who’s screwing things up, without whom the narrator (in Raging Bull terms) could have been ‘a contender’.

Cool Cool Girl treads the fine line between confidence and calamity. It’s equally a reminder that talking yourself up isn’t a bad thing and that talking yourself up too far turns you into a hubristic try-hard. Conversely, The Absolute State Of Me focuses on exactly what could be achieved in life if we all weren’t prone to the very words that begin the album.

Album opener, Lucky Coin, brings early 90s indie and late Britpop. There’s the baggy swirl of The Charlatans’ Sproston Green and the attack of Ash’s Shining Light. Drummer Nick Kiddle ought to have you playing air drums from the off. It may well be twenty-one years too late to appear on TFI Friday, but it would have been right at home there, just after the latest instalment of ‘Freak or Unique?’

They totally awake their inner Sleeper, and hit the heights on this record, with I’m Starting To Think You Don’t Even Want To Go To Space. Lily Rae’s vocals, reminiscent of Louise Wener and Lou Watts from Chumbawamba, in their combination of clarity and heft, are a sneering indictment of an ‘all mouth and no trousers’ significant other who promises to fly her to the moon and then gradually proves to be massively Earth-bound in his capabilities.

For slow and steady, you get Girls Don’t Want To Have Fun and If You Had A Sister. The latter, plaintive and melancholic, builds from a New Order-y bassline into a slow-rocker, bemoaning what seems like a crippling lack of empathy in what seems like a terrible excuse for a human being. It forms a pair of songs, with You Are Not The Universe, which are reminiscent of Jo Bevan’s songwriting on Desperate Journalist’s Grow Up. You Are Not The Universe is this album’s younger sibling of Four Star Hotel from the first Fightmilk album, Not With That Attitude.

Overbite is a barrage of gleam with a touch of gloom, Alex Wisgard’s guitar shimmering over the looming bass of Healey Becks. The band describe it as their goth surf rock moment, and who doesn’t want to think of watersport Goths, catching breakers, in wetsuits, panda-eyed make-up trickling down their ghostly faces? It’s not dissimilar to the idea of The Cure in Lycra: that time they got into mountain biking whilst recording the Wish album. Banger #4 and Hey Annabelle! are properly pepped-up punk pop, with which you can happily recharge the nearest electrical item.

The Fightmilk indomitable spirit is endearing. The album begins with obvious fallibility, quickly moves to, “I’m building something new,” flies through “There’s more to life than getting it right,” and ends with, “Don’t shut yourself away…/I think you’re cool.” It keeps reminding you things may not always go your way, but the essence of remaining a contender in life involves the simple bravery of keeping yourself in contention.

Here’s I’m Starting To Think You Don’t Even Want To Go To Space:

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