Foals’ third album draws from an overly ambitious range of styles and genres, but is sure to secure the band’s position in the British rock mainstream for good, writes Piers Barber.
It is clear from the opening minutes of throbbing rocker ‘Prelude’ that Foals’ mean stadium-based business on third album, Holy Fire. Expressive and technically dexterous, the album’s first two singles represent some of the band’s finest work to date. First full track ‘Inhaler’ is a commendably unexpected launch pad, featuring a tasty bass-led groove that unexpectedly catapults into an astonishingly heavy chorus led by some crashing drums and venomous guitars.
Following track ‘My Number’ is ‘Inhaler’’s ultimate antithesis. Refreshingly unselfconscious, it is a bright funk-rock track led by some delicious, almost African-style guitar work. Full bodied and delectably groovy, it is a moment of unmatchable indie; the type of perfect pop that the band threatened to produce on their first album, Andidotes.
Neither track is highly reflective of the record’s general trends, however. ‘Inhaler’ is a particularly strange fit, by far the album’s heaviest song, challenged only by the discordant stomper, ‘Providence’.
Somewhat confusingly, Holy Fire plays host to a whole range of different styles. There is the touching ‘Milk and Black Spiders’, with its lush house-style crescendo that borrows heavily from house music, the cool new wave jam ‘Out of the Woods’, and the airy surf sing-along ‘Everytime’. The expansive, rich layers of the band’s occasionally excellent second album, Total Life Forever, are also prominent, with closing track ‘Moon’ attempting to replicate the near-perfect harmonies of ‘Spanish Sahara’.
Foals’ considerable technical talent mean they largely get away with consistent experimentation. The gorgeous funk-fuelled guitar breakdown at the end of ‘Late Night’, for example, saves an otherwise mediocre song. Yannis Philippakis’ trademark staccato guitar pickings and continually improving vocal powers remain consistent highlights, whilst new string and synthesiser layers are effectively interwoven so as to not sound forced.
Occasionally, though, tracks like ‘Bad Habit’ push too strenuously for the mainstream, veering slightly close to Coldplay’s stadium-friendly melodies. There are some lyrical trip-ups, too, as with ‘Late Night’’s tired “I once was lost, but now I’m found”.
In its quest to achieve widespread appeal, Foals’ third full-length perhaps tries to achieve a little too much at once. Still, as host to some inspired singles and consistently excellent musicianship, it is sure to achieve it’s aim of deservedly securing the band a place in the mainstream for good.
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