Foals: What Went Down

review foals x1 cong

Foals can do no wrong, as far as we are concerned. From the math rock opening of The French Open on debut Antidotes to the closing notes on this new one (A Knife In The Ocean since you ask) they’ve not written a duff song. They’ve not even played a duff note or had a duff millisecond. Perfection, throughout. Indeed the biggest drawback with Foals is that you play an album expecting genius and when you get it, you just shrug your shoulders and love Foals a bit more. Live, they’re just as good.
Since the opening album they’ve change their sound from spikey math rock to pop and now, with this, to rock. Being Foals it’s massive rock, riffs as big as The Cloud, though in there is harmony and pop, and you can reference Arctic Monkeys, QOTSA or even U2 in their pomp and glory moments. But it’s all Foals, so it’s never ostentatious, showy or self-aggrandising.
This new album opens with moody synth and Yannis Philippakis lamenting “I buried my heart in a hole in the ground” but the moodiness only lasts until the riff and solid kick drum come in. It’s scuzzy, punky rock, with Philippakis bellowing “When I see a man I see a lion!” in the chorus. Expecting genius, you can only think: “Yeah, pop last time, heavy rock this, makes sense.”
One thing that makes Foals good is attention to detail and around three minutes in there’s a lovely pop section with harmony and echoes, a perfect piece of pop dropped in and left behind. It’s a bit like Led Zep, using a riff another band would kill for merely as a diversion in another song.
Track two goes back to the math rock, Mountain At My Gates opening with evocative guitar and just letting fans know the original band is still there; ditto Birch Tree, a repeat of earlier genius with the slickness of success and experience.
We could go on praising them forever: Albatross is a sweet pop number that’s as close as they get to filler, but it’s merely to chill you out before Snake Oil, a scuzzy bluesy tune with a bassline in places that’s as fat as an anaconda after dining on two goats and a lion.
You might read that Arctic Monkeys or Muse or Coldplay are the best British rock band, but no. It’s Foals.

About jerobear

Weekly newspaper editor in Cheshire, England. I blog my editorials and the CDs I write about. I play drums, drink coffee, play music, meditate. I hate filling in forms.

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