This is a review of "Cynical Smile" recorded by Phluid. The review was written by Mike Bradbury in 2002.
Punk glam rockers Phluid's debut LP 'Cynical Smile' does exactly what you want it to - plays loud, fast and with it's cross dressing, black-eyed, drug pumped heart on it's sleeve.
Whilst those who have seen the band live may recognise fan favourite tracks like "Pure" and "Heroine", there are several previously unheard tracks such as "No Feelings" and "Borders of My Mind" which show a growing complexity in the song writing and structure. Don't worry though, this is no Kid A, every song grabs you by the throat and keeps it's grip, leaving you gasping for air and reaching for the repeat button once again.
Revelling in outsider chic, the lyrics veer from classic self-depreciation (Strange Beauty, Pure) to sneering put downs of losers (Rock 'n' Roll Cliché), liars (Hey Jon), fakes (Fake, oddly enough) and phoneys (Heroine's savage attack on the poster girl for conformity - Britney Spears). Musically the band take their influences from quite obvious sources, but manage to find a refreshing spin of their own which keeps the band aware from sounding like a tribute. From glam legends Bowie and T-Rex to the Sex Pistols and the Wildhearts the inspiration seeps through the album. However songs like "Fake" and "Chances of Rain" have a very modern edge that reflects a more mainstream sensibility.
One thing Phluid are not short in is a killer chorus - "Sinner", "Strange Beauty" and "Fake" are made for radio, while most other tracks could easily be ear marked as singles. One surprise however is how much they have utilised the studio. Sonically there is much more going on than their live performances usually indicate. Classy guitar hooks and bass fills certainly catch the ear, whilst interesting drum beats and rhythms are thrown into the usually genre mapped 4/4 and prove that behind the glitz and glam are a group of highly talented musicians. The vocals too are top form, with singer Polly cleverly adjusting his style and approach to each track to help offer different flavours to tracks that could have made the album sound repetitive.
Whilst you can't help feeling that cutting the album from 12 tracks to 10 may have helped the rapid fire impact that the album reaches for, you would be hard pressed to decide which two. Overall a very well worked debut album that will pleasantly surprised those who have seen them live, and should also sweep up plenty new fans in their wake. Phluid may just be on the threshold of fulfilling their promise and potential.