Published Aug 05, 2020New Fries are a hard band to pin down. Unconcerned with traditional songwriting, the Toronto no wave group have made their name on short, proudly unconventional compositions. Many of their older tracks pinball from hypnotic grooves to atonal noise and back again, while others are caustic enough to cut through straightforward structures.
In a catalogue full of anomalies, Is the Idea of Us is another departure. Arriving after a four-year break and the exit of synth player Ryan Carley, it finds the band's original trio stripping down and picking up unfamiliar instruments. Surprisingly, the result is their longest and most accessible record; it redefines what New Fries can sound like without betraying their experimental ethos.
Chalk it up to a stylistic shift: where previous albums cribbed from DNA and Lydia Lunch, Is the Idea of Us offers a more skeletal version of dance punk. Anni Araujo Spadafora's busy bass playing and Jenny Gitman's syncopated cymbals make "Lily" sound like a turn-of-the-century track from the Rapture, and Tim Fagan's jittery guitar harmonics on "L'Express" recall Silent Alarm-era Bloc Party.
If these comparisons suggest a cathartic rock record, think again. Is the Idea of Us is a more patient effort, building songs out rather than blowing them up, but New Fries haven't abandoned their esoteric impulses entirely. Here, they're channeled into seven ambient snippets – each titled "Genre" – which offer refreshing digressions between longer tracks. Spadafora's unique lyrical approach also remains intact. Modernistic, arcane and repetitive, her writing is both jarring and thrillingly idiosyncratic.
Is the Idea of Us may be New Fries' least erratic release to date, but the trio has hardly become complacent. Their music remains as urgent and unpredictable as ever. (Telephone Explosion)