Too young to fully engage with the monumental breakthrough of Arctic Monkeys, but too old to care the slightest bit about the 1975, Foals were MY band. Despite only receiving my backing in earnest following their third album (2013’s Holy Fire ), they soundtracked such a pivotal part of my adolescence that for me, as far as British indie music was concerned, they were everything.
Dropping in 2008, debut album Antidotes featured angular guitars, occasional brass interjections, and largely nonsensical lyrics (including some in French), making it a bizarre but undeniably fun math rock piece. 2010’s Total Life Forever brought a different band entirely. Crisp, funk-inflected rhythms ushered in a far more mature sound, and frontman Yannis Philippakis showed the full wonder of his voice, particularly on the record’s epic centrepiece, ‘Spanish Sahara’. Having won acclaim, they decided to go big. The muscular, anthemic rock of follow-up Holy Fire was a chart success, and paved the way for huge headline sets.
They’d found their winning formula and so they, in what I imagine they’d thought was a sensible move, nigh on replicated it for 2015’s What Went Down. Sadly, for many (myself included, just a month before starting university) something was lacking. It felt derivative; many of the tracks had direct analogues on the previous LP (e.g. ‘London Thunder’ & ‘Late Night’, ‘Mountain At My Gates’ & ‘My Number’) but without the original energy. Given the mixed reviews, combined with their reputation as one of the best live bands around, it’s no surprise that they dedicated the following few years to touring.
They headed back into the studio in early 2018, though sadly without long time bassist Walter Gervers, following an amicable split. A wealth of new material followed – so much so, that they decided to cut it into two full albums, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, parts 1 and 2, the second of which is anticipated to drop in September.
From the ethereal synths that open the LP with ‘Moonlight’, it’s immediately clear that this is something new. Well aware of the ever-loosening hold guitar music has on today’s musical landscape, Philippakis and co. have allowed electronic and experimental techniques to permeate the record. At their most prominent, ‘In Degrees’ is borderline disco, and wouldn’t feel out of place in a Hot Chip set, while the tinkling vibraphones and distant wails of ‘Café D’Athens’ are reminiscent of Moon Shaped Pool -era Radiohead.
There is some familiarity though; the throbbing stadium rock of ‘White Onions’ is sure to become a staple of their live sets, after stagnating for three minutes, ‘Syrups’ gives us that cymbal-crashing shift of gear that Foals are known and loved for, and the chirpy, textured bounce of ‘On the Luna’ sounds like every song off Total Life Forever played at once.
It all culminates in the penultimate track ‘Sunday’, a two-part odyssey that swings from melancholic slow burner to 90s rave, before lullaby ‘I’m Done With the World (& It’s Done With Me)’ rounds off the album. It’s not without imperfections – the album version of ‘Exits’ lingers, making it somewhat less punchy than its single counterpart, and despite its efforts, the radical change is not all that extreme. But, for me at least, it’s served as a strong reminder of why I fell in love with them in the first place. Bring on part 2.