What's On, Birmingham
Long time no hear from the Cleveland label and the Sheffield band. Sadly, their sixth album does not make the latter such an endearing prospect. Previously spoken of in terms of Pale Fountains, Prefab Sprout, Teardrop Explodes and Lightning Seeds, this finds William Jones sounding like a poor Everything But the Girl. Without the Girl. Or, at its worse, like someone trying to emulate Nick Drake simply from what they’ve read about in books. Thin, listless, forgettable English pop delivered in a colourless voice that finds its nadir in a nine minute endurance test in late 60s prog-folk hippyness.
The Davy Magazine, Issue 39
The things about Friends is that they do so many things right. The arrangements are precise, the keyboard tinkling accurate (especially at the end of ‘Lies Lies Lies’) and the rhythms varied and nailed-down with a bass reaching the barrier of well-rounded solidity as you listen to ‘Bye Bye’. Meanwhile add to this some fine cover pop art-work and the album discloses itself in a beautiful aura of pastoral songs never reaching the connotation of being ‘folk songs’ for this is only an allusion. Singer and guitarist William Jones has been around for years (this is his sixth album), but it’s the first time I have the pleasure to encounter his great musical acquaintance. ‘Nikky Don’t Cry’ is simply brilliant. ‘Hey Joe’ is one of the most beautiful tracks I’ve heard all year, ‘Sky High’ is sweet as hell, and ‘House On The Hill’ is a harmonic masterpiece. ‘Remembrance Day’ is all acoustic and deep in its construction. This is, once again, all topped-up by William’s voice. Excellent.
Q, January 1996
This is the sixth album on their own label from the Sheffield-based band led by songwriter William Jones and, despite the quality of their work, they still aren’t half as well-known as their reference points, Julian Cope, Aztec Camera, Lightning Seeds and Prefab Sprout. Stripping a jangly, romantic pop sound down to gorgeous voices, acoustic guitar and percussion while opening the arrangements up to brass and strings here and there, the result is an hour of wistful, seamless, summery haze with a couple of harder-edged tracks to keep the blissful somnambulance at bay. Butterfly Man, with a chord sequence echoing a piece from John McLaughlin’s 1969 Extrapolation album, adds an esoteric (and probably coincidental) footnote to the points of reference. ***
Pop Sided, Spring 1996
Absolutely no relation to the cold cathode phenomena that airs weekly on American network t.v., these Friends offer up 60 minutes of highly melodic pop that will leave a smile on your face long after your cd player winds down to sleep. If the more acoustic moments of Julian Cope are your cup of tea then “Lies Lies Lies”, the first track on Folk Songs (the sixth album from this Sheffield based band), will have you digging for your old copy of Cope’s Fried and taking it for a spin. This time around best Friend William Jones keeps it simple by strumming out seamless pop songs on acoustic guitar while Martin Parker provides a tasteful array of percussive counterpoint throughout, to great effect.
Many of the songs here benefit from arrangements that include strings, brass and an occasional female backing vocal that point tracks like “Into The Sun” and “On Saturday” in the direction of Prefab Sprout, while “Bye Bye” and “Another Day” send the needle spinning toward Aztec Camera. If you like the feeling of swinging in a hammock while drifting in and out of sleep on a nice summer day then get the CD by Friends. Otherwise, watch back to back episodes of the one on t.v. and remember, with friends like those … who needs enemas.
Magic!, November/December 1995
Sixième album pour Friends dont les chansons renvoient à une ligneé familiale qui comprendrait les Housemartins, Bill Pritchard (pour la voix) ou The Adventure Babies. Une faible productivité discographique explique, à défaut d’excuser, certaines longueurs à la moitié d’un disque qui comprend dix-sept morceaux pour un peu plus d’une heure de musique au cours de laquelle William Jones nous prouve l’étendue de son talent.
Les Inrockuptibles, 13-19 December 1995
C’est un petit disque venu de nulle part et pourtant voué à un destin enviable pour peu qu’il sache se faire entendre. Puisse le bouche-à-oreille, unique médium de promotion possible pour ces chansons fâchées avec les conventions, fonctionner à plein. Puissent ces voix glorieuses toucher ceux – les amateurs de sobriété, de Ron Sexsmith au meilleur de Bill Pritchard en passant par le Yo La Tengo acoustique – pour qui elles chantent si joliment. A peine trios chansons dans l’album et l’on sent déjà qu’il a été attendu par le groupe comme une libération – pas moins de dix-sept titres rentrés au chausse-pied. Comment expliquer autrement la richesse mélodique qui l’habite de part en part, la beauté d’arrangements – les cuivres de Lies lies lies, les percussions de Bye bye – que l’on devine avoir mûri longuement? Et on ne parle même pas de la production remarquable qui élève l’ensemble à l’état de petit miracle parfaitement imprévisible, donc hautement appréciable.
Andrew Hirst Huddersfield Daily Examiner
Forget the folk tag – the Sheffield band’s having us on. Alluring acoustic pop that’s distinctly English and steeped in romance.
James Scanlon Lancashire Evening Telegraph
You have to hand it to William Jones, a man who has for years been suffering for his art as far as record sales are concerned. Friends are now up to their sixth album and amazingly sounding fresher than ever. This time round Jones has opted to cut off the electricity supply to concentrate on a more stripped-down and intimate sound. It’s filled out to a certain degree by the additional use of bongos, a string quartet and a brass section. Friends may be in a different world to what the national music press currently raves about but that should by no means detract from a guy who is most definitely an incurable romantic. He deserves your utmost respect. Give it now and buy this album.