Foals have come a long way since the math rock days of debut album Antidotes to arrive at 3rd album Holy Fire which will surely herald their accession into the premier league of festival headliners and arena tours. Of course we cannot forget Total Life Forever in the evolution of Foals from the arty, awkward, angular melodies to the innovative, atmospheric all-encompassing sound that was born on TLF and has now matured gloriously on Holy Fire.
The album opens with an introduction or Prelude as it’s called here, setting the scene in a similar way to Breaking Into Heaven that opens up The Stone Roses Second Coming album, building the anticipation with a slow jam that feels tribal and rhythmic, drawing on your intrigue to find out more, putting you in the right head space for the rest of the album. Inhaler follows, the track that was first heard back in November and sees the band at their heaviest, letting out their inner rock with a big old riff whilst still retaining that classic Foals groove that moves your feet. This is a lot more direct that we’ve come to expect and this can be said for the rest of the album, it’s very direct and fun, not something you would associate with them previously! Talking to XFM’s John Kennedy, Yannis used the expression “fade up the exclamation mark” and this encapsulates perfectly how the album feels.
The albums first single My Number shows the more direct side again but this time lyrically, rather than the complex ambiguity of the previous two albums we have a personal experience that we call relate to. That Foals groove is in evidence again along with a poppy feel to it that will make you want to dance. Bad Habit displays just how big their sound now is, with a soaring chorus that screams out anthem and will sound amazing in a field at a festival as the sun is going down. If anything the band are predictably unpredictable, with Late Night sounding like a deconstructed disco track, building and layering the sound over a seriously funky bass line, the track shows the versatility in Yannis vocal with a husky and vulnerable quality in the verse, the use of strings in the chorus then lifts the track to another level before dropping into a late night drinking den guitar solo at the end.
Out Of The Woods sees Foals at their most upbeat with lyrics that talk of coming out of a dark place, maybe hinting at the time spent away from music after Total Life Forever? The time away has served them well though, there is a confident feel to the album with the band seemingly comfortable with themselves and whilst they have evolved musically in style they have still retained the classic Foals penchant for a melody and quirky song structures. Milk & Black Spiders has the aforementioned song structure and melody which builds like a dance track and drops into a big breakdown with a euphoric melody, another track that is destined for festival anthem status!
The unsung hero of the band is without doubt drummer Jack Bevan and Providence exposes this perfectly, manic heavy drumming that drives the track on along with a heavy riff that has a bluesy almost Led Zeppelin feel to it, a tribal chanted sinister vocal that builds to a frenzied crescendo, the track has a raw feel that is a result of not being over produced and is a trait that runs through the whole album. Stepson sees Foals take on the ballad and for me it doesn’t really seem to go anywhere and with final track Moon following a similar pattern the album does tail off slightly, but don’t let that detract from what is a fabulous album.
Holy Fire will, without doubt, put Foals at the top table with the big hitters, will it be the album of the year? Well it’s going to take something pretty special to eclipse it!