Foals Morph With Fast Paced 'What Went Down'
As the title track of Foals’ fourth album, 'What Went Down', tears open with a chaotic loudness, it is in some ways hard to take in that this is the same band that delivered 'Antidotes' seven years ago. It is, however, expected; over the course of those in-between years, Foals have found ever-increasing popularity, and that is something that their latest record takes into consideration.
This is not done in a way that compromises their sound and everything that is quintessentially “Foals”. Rather, as ‘What Went Down’ builds up into its heavy-hitting chorus, Foals have morphed themselves to accommodate a louder realm of sound that is more fitting for the kind of live shows they are likely to play in 2015.
‘What Went Down’ is fast paced, thrashy and full of life. As the track explodes towards the end, there are clear signature Foals-esque touches, only these are amplified. It is, then, a perfect opening track for their fourth record. ‘Mountain At My Gates’ opens with a tinkling guitar before the song steadily works its way up to a fully realized climax. ‘Birch Tree’ introduces that ethereal electronic echo that permeates Foals’ oeuvre. It’s a laid back track, with Yannis Phillippakis’ vocals gliding through.
Whilst ‘Give It All’ is a slow burner, it’s not ‘Spanish Sahara’ off their 2010 album, Total Life Forever - but that would be wrong for What Went Down. The anguished emotion of Foals bygone comes into play on ‘Give It All’, though much more refined. As the song comes fully into itself, it’s complex and dreamlike.
‘Albatross’ epitomizes the brazen nature of What Went Down. Though Foals have refined and honed their sound, there is an anthem driven defiance with which What Went Down is presented – something ‘Albatross’ takes head on. ‘Snake Oil’ opens with a metallized synth, as Phillippakis snatch attention amongst the dark, sludgy nature of the song. With a penchant for multi-layered music, ‘Snake Oil’ is where this aspect of Foals really comes into being. It’s a highlight of What Went Down, and an example of how brilliant Foals are at their stompiest and most sullen.
‘Night Swimmers’ has an abrasiveness to it that intensifies its indie rock tendency as a song. Meanwhile, ‘London Thunder’ takes the pace right down. It’s laden in echoes, raising hairs on the arm. It craves to be seen performed live, it knows it will blow away those who see it live. Following on, however, ‘Lonely Hunter’ seems to drag. It’s not a bad track, it’s just that it doesn’t recover from the awe that surrounds ‘London Thunder’.
All is not lost, however, as What Went Down concludes with ‘A Knife In The Ocean’. At just under seven minutes long, there’s a strangeness to it. It’s sporadic, drenched in ambience and full of charm; a cocktail of sound. Foals have a knack of making songs that stick with you, that you crave to listen to at all times of the day; ‘A Knife In The Ocean’ is that track.
There’s danger in comparing What Went Down incessantly with Foals earlier material, but it’s good to see that they’ve managed to retain that zing and zest that found them success, whilst not getting caught up in a set mold.
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Words by Ellie Brown