http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2013/02/holy-fire-foals.html). A modern rock band with some pop influences from unexpected corners was the message I shared at the time. Some two and a half years plus went by. Where is the band from Oxford at this point in time?
Foals never was the band for taking the easy way out where its music is concerned. Never afraid to take an unexpected turn or change within a song. This has not so much changed, as that whole genres get the Foals treatment on What Went Down nowadays. A lot has been going on and digested, listening to Foals' latest.
The album starts with some electronic organ sound. When Yannis Phillipakis opens his mouth to sing it is as if I'm listening to a new song by Coldplay. This illusion last exactly one sentence. The band kicks in with an oomph, playing three chords ta-ta-ta in a way Coldplay has not been able to do since its second album. The sounds build it into a rockbeast, changing to maniacal wildness. The title song is a statement of intent if I ever heard one. A monument of a song. Foals manages to hold back and completely let go within one song. The driving instrumental part working towards the verse, where the storm is cooked up also holds this beautiful 'ooh' singing part. 'What Went Down' is one of the better songs of 2014. Simple but true. Foals gives it its all, Philippakis screams out his lungs. Whoever it is he wants, there is no denying his intent here.
Not all powder was burned there and then, luckily for us listeners, after this opening statement. 'Mountain At My Gates' is a song that begins small, has a beautiful melody. Slowly the song transgresses into maelstrom territory, sucking everything downwards within its grasp. Again Foals cooks up a storm in an utterly convincing way. The change to Bee Gees disco is an unexpected one. Not that we're singing 'Staying Alive' or 'Tragedy' here, but the voices are somewhat raised into higher registers, the drums play a disco rhythm as does the guitar. The synths have an 80s flavour with a hint at EDM sound. 'Birch Tree' will never be a floor filler and isn't meant to be one, but lends some aspects from an era long gone in a successful way.
Coldplay is an influence on Foals, there is no denying. 'Give It All' has that too simple singing melody like Coldplay excels in more and more. It also is built more on sounds than chords. It goes for largess with a minimum on sounds. For me it is hard to maintain that Foals is more artistic here. Yannis Philippakis's voice is rougher than Chris Martin's that's where things stop here. A dance remix is also something that is easy to imagine listening to this song. The tension can be built up before release easily in 'Give It All'.
I'd rather listen to What Went Down than to anything Coldplay has released after 'X&Y' any day, the album I started to have serious doubts about Coldplay. The excitement Foals creates is as high as Coldplay mastered on its second album, 'A Rush of Blood to the Head'. Above that Foals has this wild side that it doesn't mind walking on. 'Snake Oil' slivers like a snake does and sounds as dangerous.
'Nightswimmers' can't possibly be described like that, but brings this tough sounding guitar later on in the song. At the same time Giorgio Moroder seems to have crept into the room as well to add some 1977 in the 2015 music. You can actually sing 'I Feel Love' over the rhythm. A weird hybrid of alternative rock and disco this song is.
The on and off switches remain for the rest of the album. Listening deeper in I'm not (yet?) convinced to be listening to a master piece. Just like the reviews I've read up to now move in two directions. From hosanna to a big disappointment. For me it is one part hosanna and one part more neutral, making up my mind. Fact is that there are several songs on What Went Down that are extremely impressive. This could well be a record to be turned into vinyl.
You can listen to 'What Went Down' here
or buy on Bol.Com