As the final brutal tones of ‘Inhaler’ rang out around Robin Hill County Park in early September 2014, Yannis Philippakis had previously announced to the crowd that it would be the last time they would be hearing from Foals for some time. You can imagine our shock as barely twelve months pass and the alt-rock outfit punctured the radio waves in June with their most unrestrained and intuitional track to date ‘What Went Down’. The album of the same name is released in the UK this week and we attempt to dissect its stature, form and role as predecessor to the majestic ‘Holy Fire’.
The bilocation recording between the peaceful mountainous setting of La Fabrique studios and the band’s affectionately titled Oxford stink box reflect noticeably throughout this record and the overall pace and structure offers some fabrication. The opulent and extensive ‘Give It All’ moves along with the stature of a Lykke Li off-cut yet instead of a chamber songstress narrative you have Yannis’s equally brooding yet overall far more visceral vocal throughout as it slowly descends into a disjointed place. Meanwhile the title track capitalises on this dark and weighted atmosphere that has become synonymous with the group’s live performance and has earned them such global acclaim as it pushes down further upon your whole being before allowing for destructive release.
‘Snake Oil’ offers a heavier approach than Foals have ever expressed before with Nine Inch Nails style riffs and sonar psychedelica running beneath the frantic and tumultuous outer layer. Two beautifully indulgent and infectious tracks ‘Albatross’ and ‘Night Swimmers’ prove Foals to have a confidence in their own working processes and the importance to occasionally look to the past rather than ploughing forward in blind ambition as this pair are purely math rock and alt-funk completed to the exceptional levels that made their first two albums such critical pieces. ‘London Thunder’ follows the need for an ethereal and theatrical balladic interlude to the album in the way ‘Late Night’ so readily divides ‘Holy Fire’ yet this self anticipatory single sees the band once again settle comfortably within their predesigned territory whilst still demonstrating an intuitive self development.
Merciless ‘Mountain At My Gates’ encapsulates everything the quintet do well as the danceable guitar riffs face off against the savage vocal of Philippakis whilst the sturdy percussion directs both vying entities to a suitable crescendo once again drawing connotations to fields ablaze with flares, smoke and this alt-rock anthem permeating through the thousands of feverous Foals followers. It was always common knowledge that it would taken quite an album to dwarf the immaculate might of ‘Holy Fire’ yet the band proficiently achieve this with the ferocious ‘What Went Down’.
What Went Down is released in the UK on August 28 via Transgressive Records